White Rock councillor given the boot by judge for lying

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.

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  • Lisa

    We the voters have a right to information presented fairly and honestly during an election – this right that we the voters have is clearly defined in the local government act section 152, C.
    As much as I commend your defending the rights of candidates to present information falsely during an election, we the voters have rights too.
    If this is how a candidate will act during an election, should we expect any different actions once in office?
    It time we the voters to our rights into our hands and hold candidates accountable for their actions during an election instead of complaining after they’ve been elected and continue to act that way when elected.

  • Bob Hawkins

    Of course this is a correct decision and one that should cause all political candidates pause for consideration. The message is that the citizens deserve to know the correct facts and no amount of spin or lies will be acceptable.

  • rogers

    I think only another candidate can bring this type of hearing forward and not your general voting public.
    Also, one should clarify just what the judge ruled on. Coleridge was not chastized for the content of the email but rather the way he went about (or his wife went about) sending the email. When confronted during the campaign about the author or origin of the email he didn’t tell the truth and continued to deny any knowledge of who sent the email. This is what the judgment was all about and not about the content.
    One would just have to look at Todd’s campaign contributors to see that the contents of the email in question has some validity.
    In fact, Todd received a very large portion of his campaign funding after the election.
    Todd came 14th in the running for council in a “city” that has only six councillor seats.
    Your readers would do well to check out Todd’s voting record on council to see that there is much truth in the email in which Coleridge’s research was contained.