Judge tosses out conflict-of-interest petition by Cedar Party members against Gregor Robertson
The chief justice of the B.C. Supreme Court, Christopher Hinkson, has ruled that a petition against Vancouver's mayor is "an abuse of the Court's process".
Hinkson declared in a 14-page ruling that the case filed by 10 citizens, including Cedar Party mayoral candidate Glen Chernen, "is without foundation and can serve no useful purpose". (Click here to read the decision.)
Cedar Party council candidates Jeremy Gustafson and Enrique Vertti were two of the other petitioners.
Their petition alleged that Mayor Gregor Robertson had "failed to disclose a direct, or indirect, pecuniary conflict of interest" when the city leased a former Vancouver Police Department building to HootSuite Media Inc.
Robertson used HootSuite's premises for an electronic town-hall meeting prior to the 2011 election. At the time, he received a HootKit of stickers, a T-shirt, and a coffee mug sleeve, which had little value, according to the ruling.
There was another "town-hall meeting" in 2013 after the property had been leased.
"The mayor of any large city will invariably interact with a wide variety of individuals and corporations during his or her tenure," Hinkson wrote. "Such interaction is a necessary part of the mayoral role, and is hoped to be of benefit to the city's residents and voters. It is also unlikely to be the sort of activity that will create a direct or indirect pecuniary interest or an interest that constitutes a conflict of interest within the ambit of s. 145.292) of the Vancouver Charter."
If Robertson had been found guilty of violating this section of the Vancouver Charter, the judge could have ordered the mayor to vacate his office.
Robertson failed in his attempt to obtain special costs, which are awarded on the basis that the proceedings lack legal merit or where there is no evidence supporting the petitioner's claim.
"The petitioners do not share the respondent's political views," Hinkson wrote. "Despite their differing points of view, I am not prepared to find that the petitioners acted maliciously or engaged in scandalous or outrageous conduct."
Hinkson stated in his ruling that he couldn't find "the petition is so irrelevant that it will involve the parties in useless expense".
Nor did the judge determine that the petition was "frivolous", so therefore, he didn't strike it under B.C. Supreme Court Rule 9-5(1)(b).
However, Hinkson ruled that the petition could be dismissed under Rule 9-5(1)(d), which covers "abuse of process".
"In my opinion, there is no evidence that the modest campaign assistance provided to the respondent by HootSuite during the 2011 Vancouver civic election was linked to the lease and option to purchase the Property," Hinkson ruled.
In February, government-ethics expert Duff Conacher told the Straight that he doubted any judge would throw Robertson out of office in connection with this petition.