Judge rules city councillor should be turfed because he lied during the last election
It was one of our first posts on CityCaucus.com last January. It was the story first reported by the Peace Arch News of a White Rock councillor accused of sending nasty emails about another candidate. It was dubbed ‘real estate slate gate.’ At the centre of the controversy was councillor James Coleridge and former councillor Matt Todd.
During the civic election, an email was making the rounds which claimed Todd was part of something called the ‘Real Estate Slate’. The email was traced to an IP address that was linked to Councillor Coleridge’s computer. The email was signed by Alison and Tom Baker, and was trying to link Todd to what was seen as a political organization linked to White Rock’s real estate industry. An allegation that Todd publicly denied.
In a stunning ruling by a BC Supreme Court judge, CKNW 980 radio reports that Coleridge was told to exit stage left after it was found that he "lied and deceived the public." According to the Surrey Now:
The Supreme Court of British Columbia declared the election of James Coleridge invalid under Section 145(2) of the Local Government Act.
Section 145 reads as follows:
Power of the court on an application
145 (1) On the hearing of an application under section 143 regarding the qualification of an elected candidate to take office, the court may
(a) declare that the candidate is confirmed as qualified to take and hold office,
(b) declare that the candidate is not qualified to hold office and that the office is vacant, or
(c) declare that the candidate is not qualified to hold office and that the candidate who received the next highest number of valid votes is elected in place of the disqualified candidate.
(2) On the hearing of an application under section 143 regarding the validity of an election, the court may
(a) declare that the election is confirmed as valid,
(b) declare that the election is invalid and that another election must be held to fill all positions for that office that were to be filled in the election that was declared invalid,
(c) declare that the election of a candidate is invalid and that the office is vacant, or
(d) declare that the election of a candidate is invalid and that another candidate is duly elected.
(3) The court must not declare an election invalid by reason only of an irregularity or failure to comply with this Act or a regulation or bylaw under this Act if the court is satisfied that
(a) the election was conducted in good faith and in accordance with the principles of this Act, and
(b) the irregularity or failure did not materially affect the result of the election.
(4) The court may confirm the election of a candidate in relation to which the court finds there was a contravention of section 151 or 152 if the court is satisfied that
(a) the candidate did not contravene the applicable section, and
(b) the contravention did not materially affect the result of the election.
(5) If the court declares that a candidate is not qualified to hold office or that the election of a candidate is invalid, the court may order the candidate to pay the municipality or regional district for which the election was held a sum of money not greater than $20 000 towards the expenses for the election required to fill the vacancy.
(6) If the court makes a declaration under subsection (1) (c) or (2) (d) that another candidate is elected, the candidate who is replaced ceases to be entitled to take or hold the office and the other candidate declared elected is entitled to take the office.
According to CKNW:
Justice Laura Gerow says Coleridge not only lied but continued to lie when he was offered a chance to tell the truth.
She’s ordered him to pay 20-thousand dollars to the city of White Rock towards the cost of a byelection that will be needed to fill the vacancy left by his election being ruled invalid.
This court ruling is simply amazing. Civic politicians can be turfed out of office for lying.
At the time we boldly predicted "the lawsuit will be thrown out and White Rock’s election results will stand." So much for that prediction. Rest assured this court ruling will be watched closely by civic politicians across the land as it sets a very interesting precedent. There is no word yet on whether Coleridge will run again in the upcoming by-election.
Check out our new CityCaucus.com web poll on this subject. For a complete timeline on this story, check out this Peace Arch News story.