A special prosecutor has laid three criminal charges against Grant Sanborn, a former director of development with the District of Chilliwack.
Sanborn faces three counts of breach of trust after Robin McFee concluded that he failed to fulfil his public duty between August 1, 1994 and February 28, 1999 in approving two subdivisions.
McFee did not charge former B.C. solicitor general John Les, who was Chilliwack's mayor during this period.
A criminal justice branch statement issued today (June 25) states: "Mr. McFee concluded that the available evidence does not meet the threshold of a substantial likelihood that Mr. Les would be convicted of the offence of breach of trust by a public officer and concluded that a prosecution should not be initiated against Mr. Les."
Les quit as solicitor general in 2008 after learning of an RCMP investigation. He was reelected in 2009 as the MLA for Chilliwack-Sumas.
One of the subdivisions was developed near the intersection of Rosebank Place and Camp River Road. The other was near the Chilliwack River.
According to a 31-point summary that was also released today, Les owned a numbered company that entered into contracts in 1997 to buy three parcels of land near the intersection.
This included 6.3 acres of an 11.2-acre farm. This parcel was in the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Les played a "central role" in the Rosebank subdivision as the developer and main proponent, according to the summary.
The summary also suggests that his numbered company "initiated and was instrumental in the design and implementation of a development plan to achieve subdivision of these properties into six lots via a sophisticated multi-step rezoning and two-phase subdivision process that required boundary adjustments".
Les's company structured the plan so that it would not require an application to the Agricultural Land Commission.
"The creation of residential properties in the agricultural zone was contrary to Chilliwack's Official Community Plan and was also contrary to the intent of the ALCA [Agricultural Land Commission Act] and Regulations," the summary states. "As such, it can be reasonably said that the Rosebank subdivision should not have been permitted to proceed."
A complaint to the RCMP alleged that Les, as mayor, "exercised undue and inappropriate influence over the Approving Officer, Mr. Grant Sanborn, to secure approval for this subdivision which, in part, encompassed agricultural lands".
The summary states that McFee concluded that Sanborn gave Les "preferential treatment in the rezoning and subdivision of those lands".
There was a "paucity of evidence", however, that Les "took direct steps to actively encourage Mr. Sanborn [and others] to look favourably on the Rosebank subdivision".
"Nor does the available evidence support a finding that Mr. Les utilized his public office as Mayor to advance his personal interest with respect to the Rosebank subdivision," the summary notes.
Les, as mayor, recused himself from voting on the Rosebank rezoning and advised council of his potential conflict of interest.
Meanwhile, McFee concluded that Sanborn also breached his duty by approving a different subdivision, the Trails at Longhorn Creek, which is on the shores of the Chilliwack River.
"Mr. Sanborn was allegedly aware that certain Ministry of the Environment, Water Management Branch conditions were required for subdivision approval," the summary states. "Despite this knowledge, it is alleged that Mr. Sanborn granted approval for the subdivision without requiring compliance with the conditions.
The summary notes that "during Mr. Les' tensure as Mayor, a 'pro-development/can do' culture was fostered within the City of Chilliwack's Development and Planning Department".
"The evidence indicates that Mayor Les and most members of Council embraced this pro-development philosophy such that staff were encouraged, both directly and subtly, to adhere to what was described as an attitude of innovation and creativity within the City of Chilliwack's Development and Planning Department, particularly with respect to the processing of applications for development," the summary states.
Moreover, members of the planning and development department "were encouraged to consider government regulations and municipal bylaws as guidelines only, with the goal of finding creative ways 'to make development opportunities happen'."