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Five Vancouver residents allege in a lawsuit that Mayor Gregor Robertson and Councillor Geoff Meggs put themselves in a conflict of interest by promising a city union that it would not lose any jobs to contracting out while Vision Vancouver was asking for campaign donations.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

A lawsuit aiming to oust Vancouver's mayor and a senior councillor is a desperate, ill-conceived effort by "do-gooder citizens who think their views are more important than the electorate," said the mayor's lawyer Wednesday.

"I'm inviting the court to comment on the fact that this is an inappropriate action," Bryan Baynham urged B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elliott Myers as he challenged the case, initiated by five residents who have been affiliated with groups fighting the Vision Vancouver party on various fronts for years.

Those five, led by West End Neighbours founder Randy Helten, launched the lawsuit after last November's election. They say Mayor Gregor Robertson and Councillor Geoff Meggs put themselves in a conflict of interest by promising a city union that it would not lose any jobs to contracting out while Vision Vancouver was asking for campaign donations.

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The whole issue came to light when a recording of the October meeting was passed to a reporter, who published an account of it a month before the election.

The statements on the recording became an attack point at every election debate and the subject of a series of ads by Vision Vancouver's main opponent, the Non-Partisan Association. Despite the controversy, Vision Vancouver maintained control of council, winning seven of the 11 seats.

Mr. Robertson and Mr. Meggs are suing the NPA and mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe over their allegations of corruption.

At the residents' case this week, Mr. Baynham argued that when Mr. Meggs went to the union membership meeting for the city's outside workers last October, he was doing nothing more than "stating the long-standing policy of Vision to be supportive of the union movement generally" and to not contract out any new work.

The city has a general policy of splitting its work between contractors and its unionized employees.

Mr. Baynham noted that an unnamed union official on the partial recording talks about a plan to give most of the union's campaign money to Vision Vancouver – even though the union's questions about the job-security issue had not all been answered.

And he said that when Kyla Epstein, a member of CUPE 1004's political action committee, said on the recording that the money would have conditions attached, she was just giving her opinion as a union member.

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Mr. Baynham noted that, in previous cases involving conflict of interest, judges have said that there needs to be a clear link showing that a council member has agreed to vote in favour of something in exchange for a personal benefit.

But even though Justice Myers had earlier pointed out that all political activity involves promising things to different groups and asking them for financial support and votes, Mr. Baynham did not pursue that line of argument.

The residents' lawyer has argued that Mr. Meggs went beyond stating a general policy and appeared to be promising jobs in exchange for a campaign donation. As well, David Wotherspoon noted several times that neither the mayor nor Mr. Meggs have ever denied doing anything wrong.

Justice Myers reserved his decision in the case. Lawyers for both sides expected it to be released in about two weeks.

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