Is it Dirty Politics or Corruption in the Township of Langley? Here are the issues Council were fighting me on… What would you do, fight or surrender? – cont’d Part 2 of 4

Posted: December 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

The question … What kind of municipal government do you want? Transparent, listens to the community and states the Truth, OR one that hides the truth from you in favor of friends and insiders? You have had the latter for years and continue to do so!

The Rest of the Story cont’d….  Here is Part 2 of a 4 part series looking at the truth behind what really went on during my three year (some would say controversial) term in the Mayor’s office. Is this the level of respect you want or are happy with from members of Council towards your choice for Mayor or for that matter to any other duly elected member of council? You be the judge!   

So back to the controversy….

First up, first Council Agenda of my term –

Langley Events Center (LEC) – No P3 Agreement as publicly promised to the taxpayer FOR TWO YEARS BY staff and ALL members of Council and the Province of B.C. through regular PUBLIC press releases (A lie, you bet it was) – Contained in our FIRST Council In-Camera Agenda was a staff report requesting an additional $7.5 million for the NEW Langley Events Center (75% complete at the time) along with a number of recommendations for the facility. With some obvious concerns I had after reading the Agenda and associated reports over the weekend I asked our CAO for a signed copy of the extensively and publically advertised P3 agreement at an 8:00 AM Monday meeting scheduled by myself. His answer – there wasn’t one. Shocked and armed with this new revelation I went into our first in-camera meeting, innocently enough and advised Council of what I had learned and I requested the courtesy of Council for a one week deferral so a new Mayor, a new Councilor (one councilor was away) could be brought up to speed. Their answer, put forward by then Councilor Jordan Bateman (you remember him, he of Canadian Taxpayer fame, and alleged defender of the taxpayer) call the question on the motion and the staff report and recommendations were passed. A reasoned request denied in 5 seconds. (NOTE – This entire LEC financial boondoggle issue was extensively covered in a previous BLOG Post of March 3rd 2013.) It was not an issue during the 2008 election campaign because the issue was unknown at the time but was the first to hit my desk.

Councilors responsible for not agreeing to a reasoned one week deferral – Charlie Fox, Grant Ward, Jordan Bateman, Bev Dornan, Mel Kositsky, Bob Long and Steve Ferguson!

Now to be clear, I had a Choice – Do I tell the public the truth or NOT? My first Mayor’s Report in the next Council meeting was in keeping with my belief in an open, transparent and responsible government. I announced that there was no P3 agreement in place and I was very concerned. (P3 agreements are established so as to share the risk, this was not done.) A lie was perpetrated on the taxpayers of the Township. I received criticism from members of Council for telling the truth. One Council member was quoted in the press as saying I don’t understand why the Mayor had to make that public, say NO MORE? IMPORTANT – For a complete understanding of why I still say this project should undergo a Forensic Audit go to the March 3rd, 2013 langleywatchdog BLOG Post.

Next up, Mayor’s Standing Committee of Finance – One of my campaign promises was to set up a Mayor’s Standing Committee of Finance, permitted for the Mayor to establish under Community Charter legislation. I appointed three members of Council and three very qualified citizens of the Township, one a well-known and then just retired managing (loca) Director (CA) of a large local accounting firm, a retired federal auditor and a local lawyer. The majority of Council expressed their displeasure with my actions as they were pleased with the job they had done in the area of taxation and spending (Please see their record of taxation, over a six year period taxes increased at 3 times the rate of inflation BLOG Post May 2013) and it was downhill from there. They didn’t stop there, Councilors Ward and Ferguson, along with some firefighters and media in tow crashed a few of our committee meetings in nothing but a disgraceful, embarrassing and very public spectacle which negated anyone volunteering in future years.

This committee spent weeks of very hard work, met every department and went through the Provisional (Staff) Budget line by line. Questions were asked that challenged staff, something that hasn’t been done before or since. All of this went into the conclusions and recommendations of the committee. A comprehensive report was presented to Council in an open 4:00PM meeting and not one question was asked of members of the committee by Council. The report included a recommended tax increase of .93%, (less than 1%!) it was totally ignored. Yes, Jordan Bateman, he of Canadian Taxpayer fame, you know the defender of the taxpayer was on Council and with the majority of Council supported and approved a 4.9% tax increase. At the time, three times the cost of living (the CPI)!

I had a choice – Do I live up to my commitment and promise which I was elected on as presented during the 2008 election, or capitulate to members of council that liked everything the way it was? I was not willing to capitulate and continue their way of doing things which was not serving the public well. Among a number of initiatives, we wanted to conduct were value for money audits. For some reason (use your imagination here), Township Councilors and staff didn’t like the idea.

Next up, Mufford Crescent Diversion –  A $60 million multi funded (12) partner project, which was UNKNOWN to the public prior to the 2008 election. There was (no public consultation, input or knowledge) of the project that by design was going to direct 500 cars per hour north when they want to go south onto a two lane country road at 216th and 64th. (a land deal for somebody but not a traffic solution!) Following a promise I made during the election campaign, after winning, before swearing in and two days before the ALC was going to vote on this application I served notice to the ALC that we would be going to public consultation through two Open Houses and a Public Meeting. After attracting over 1,000 residents to these three events with over a 95% Public REJECTION of the proposed overpass and road plan Council requested a Vote on the project at a 4:00 PM untelevised afternoon meeting. Due to the high profile nature of the issue I advised Council BEFORE their vote that should they vote in favor of the overpass I would bring it back in two weeks to a televised evening meeting for a public vote as allowed under the Community Charter for the Mayor. Both votes approved the proposed project 6 – 3. (Green / Richter / Kositsky opposed) As far as I was concerned that was that, Council would have to live with their decision, ignoring the wishes of the public. For the record, as mentioned earlier, the ALC, before our swearing in had given this project Conditional Approval subject to nine very specific conditions. In any event I thought that was the end of it but I was mistaken. The public should be alarmed at what happened next.

That was the case until June of that year. I was apprised of a submission by The Pacific Land Group to the ALC on behalf of the 12 funding partners. This submission was the formal response to the nine conditions (conditional approval) by the ALC with respect to this initiative. I contacted our CAO Mark Bakken requesting a copy of the submission. Reading this report was a revelation! How wrong and misleading could one report possibly be? (A full explanation on Mufford is contained in an earlier BLOG Post of February 22nd, 2013)

I had a choice – Do I tell the Agricultural Land Commission the truth or not?

Was the Mufford Crescent Diversion a done deal? Never-the-less, due to the absolute erroneous information in this report upon which the ALC was going to make a final decision, I along with three other community members scheduled a meeting with ALC Staff armed with an independent report correcting this false information. For the record, it was clearly stated in my letter accompanying our independent report that I was NOT challenging the vote of Council, just correcting information in the submission. I was speaking as a resident as were other members of the committee. We wanted to ensure that the ALC vote would be based on correct information not incorrect information. Members of Council were outraged that I would have the audacity to request a meeting with ALC staff, questioning the report that was submitted by the proponent, I might add regardless of how wrong it was?

An Interesting conclusion and decision on the Mufford proposal? Despite the overwhelming odds and subliminal and some not so subliminal THREATS I received in fighting the B.C. Provincial Government, our MLAs, Minister of Transportation, Translink, eleven other funding partners, majority of Township Councilors, Mayor Fassbender, City of Langley and engineering staff; That project, their project, was rejected by the ALC on the arguments we presented. Our facts were correct. The TRUTH prevailed! Was I wrong in fighting for the truth as well as supporting such a large majority of the public, NO, I would do it again despite the intimidation, bullying and angst by Council. Where was all of that coming from? Follow the money!

Next Up – Athenry Gate Development / Willoughby – During the week of Nov. 22nd, 2010 I became aware of an agenda item (Athenry Developments) scheduled for a “Development Permit” Public Hearing and 4th reading on Monday November 29th, 2010. This item had received 1st and 2nd reading, public hearing and 3rd reading (conditional approval) in June of 2008 by the Council previous to ours, again prior to my election as Mayor. In doing my due diligence in preparation for the upcoming Public Hearing, I researched this project and its history, through a variety of Staff Reports. I was frankly shocked in finding the project that was proposed and given the appropriate readings, including Public Hearing bore no resemblance to what was before us at Development Permit Stage and 4th and final reading. For the Record, Changes can only be made after 3rd reading in Form, Character and Design. Density cannot be increased after 3rd reading without going back to a NEW Public Hearing. These changes in my opinion then and now DID NOT come close to meeting that standard and therefore would be deemed illegal.

The original June 2008 approved project was for one building located roughly in the center of the property while the 2010 version was for three, four story apartment buildings, a two story office building and a Cultural Center. This change impacted all surrounding private homes severely with a dramatically reduced set back, increased height of buildings with very close imposition immediately next to surrounding homes. In my opinion and experience this was and is a travesty of justice that happened to local hard working taxpayers. (NOTE – As I understand it, the affected residents had launched legal action but withdrew without giving up their right for taking action in the future.) Due to their position they were denied access to speak directly to councilors (They must go through Township lawyers) about ongoing problems with the development that has so dramatically affected their quality of life and home values! Were their rights for political representation not being trampled on?

For anyone reading this and dismissing its impact, I would ask – what would your reaction be IF you were in the same position? I know of one resident who sold their dream home in this development, it cost them about $100,000. In reduced market value. This has been verified by a number of local local real estate representatives.

So, how did this issue conclude? I convened a meeting with our CAO in my office Monday morning expressing a serious concern about going forward with this application for 4th reading and Development Permit stage that evening. I was told that our lawyers had agreed with staff and concluded the changes were nothing more than changes in form, character and design and so we proceeded with dealing with this issue at that night’s Council meeting, where by the way and interestingly enough, Councilor Kositsky was absent (conveniently for him). A very controversial issue being dealt with by the Mayor and only seven councilors!

I was concerned with the potential for legal issues being raised during the meeting so I requested the Township lawyer be in attendance. I had advised Council during the dinner break that if I felt we were getting into difficult territory that I would suggest a 15 minute adjournment motion from Council. This indeed did happen, at a point when we were dealing with a possible deferral motion of 1 – 2 weeks. In our adjournment (not a meeting) I canvassed support for deferral, while having three of us agree, in typical fashion support for deferral was denied. On exiting the Board Room finishing that adjournment I looked back and saw Mark Bakken CAO and Councilor Charlie Fox huddled around Councilor Bev Dornan (the only three left in the room). Interesting development as we were down to 8 votes with Kositsky away. The vote at the time was 5 – 3 against a deferral. If it was a tie vote deferral would also have been denied BUT then it would have gone to a vote of approval on Development Permit and 4th reading which was approved 5 – 3. If it had been a 4 – 4 tie it would have been defeated. Does this sound like securing your votes? Can’t say for sure, just thought I would ask the question?

Given the obvious bent of Council it would have been easier to give in than to fight, that is not in my DNA and not what I was elected to do!

Part 3 of this BLOG Series coming in three days, more controversial issues to deal with!

RG

I am working on a few posts at present that I believe should be of significant concern and interest to residents of the Township of Langley.

Protect your Democratic Rights – Protect your NEIGHBORS Democratic Rights – stay informed, GET and stay involved and VOTE!!!

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Comments
  1. Jacob says:

    In my view, the (Province-wide) problem is that the current Community Charter (under which all municipalities and regional districts operate), when enacted, did not continue the oversight (in the meaning of supervision, not in the meaning of neglect) over these “entities created by the Province”.

    There used to be an “Inspector of Municipalities”, a civil servant in Victoria, when the Municipal Act existed. This person could overrule something that a municipality had done. No more. Municipalities are a law unto themselves.

    • Jacob, this is exactly what I said in Part 1 of this BLOG Post series and what I have complained about for years. This is what has allowed the kind of senior political interference we see today in the Township.

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