An effort by a group of Vancouver residents to have Mayor Gregor Robertson and a senior councillor removed from office for conflict of interest over a union campaign donation has failed.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elliott Myers dismissed the petition on Friday, saying there was zero evidence that the mayor and Councillor Geoff Meggs promised anything to one of its city unions in exchange for a campaign contribution.
That prompted Mr. Robertson to issue a statement in which he said the residents' case was "clearly a politically driven lawsuit" aimed at trying to overturn election results.
If it had succeeded, the mayor's Vision Vancouver party would have been left with only five of 11 seats and lost control of council, and the candidate from the opposition Non-Partisan Association, Kirk LaPointe, would have become mayor.
"It is a disturbing trend to see people bring forward court action to try and subvert the results of a democratic election," Mr. Robertson's statement said. Vision hired high-profile lawyer Bryan Baynham to defend the two.
Allegations that the Vision politicians traded union jobs for campaign donations got extensive media coverage during the campaign. Mr. Robertson and Mr. Meggs sued the NPA and Mr. LaPointe for statements they made at the time. That case is due to be heard in October.
But one of the people who filed the conflict lawsuit said the judge did not address the group's main point in his ruling, and that they will consider an appeal.
"This is not politically motivated and this is about the fundamental functioning of our democracy," said a disappointed Randy Helten, a persistent critic of the mayor and Vision Vancouver for the past six years. He said it was typical of the mayor to attack his critics instead of acknowledging any mistakes.
Lawyer David Wotherspoon, representing Mr. Helten and four others, argued that Mr. Meggs was promising jobs in exchange for a campaign contribution when he told a meeting of CUPE 1004, which represents outside workers, that Mr. Robertson had made a commitment that any new processes at the city would mean those union members "will be there delivering those services in your area and jurisdiction."
The event was a general membership meeting at which politicians present their platforms and the union decides how to allocate its campaign donations.
Mr. Wotherspoon had tried to make the case that Mr. Meggs went beyond a general policy statement about the party's policy of not contracting out work.
But Justice Myers said there was no sign of that.
"There is no evidence before me indicating that Local 1004's contribution was anything other than a lawful political contribution," he wrote. "There is no evidence of an agreement between the respondents and Local 1004 to the effect that if a contribution was made, the respondents would take a particular position or that if a contribution was not made they would not take that position. Rather, the respondents' long-standing view, one made public well before the current election, was against contracting out of union positions."
CUPE 1004 donated $34,000 of the $2.5-million Vision raised during the campaign, and that was matched by other CUPE branches to bring the total to $102,000.
The judge also delivered a light reprimand.
He said lawyers for the residents did not provide any rationale during the court hearing or when he requested additional material for why the lawsuit claimed the mayor and councillor violated a section of the Vancouver Charter, which prohibits elected officials from accepting gifts for personal benefit and then attempting to influence a meeting as a result.
"The petitioners spent much time in oral and written arguments on the importance of their challenge to democratic principles," he said. "A clear and cogent position is particularly important in a case such as this where the petitioners are asking to have two elected officials – one the mayor of Vancouver – disqualified on the basis of a conflict of interest or the improper acceptance of a donation."