-- Wednesday, July 13, 2011 --
hould Maple Ridge Coun.Al Hogarth, a realtor, beable to vote for a condoproject, then three yearslater sell those units?Coun. Craig Speirs says theCommunity Charter shouldn’t al-low that.But Hogarth says he follows allthe rules in the Charter – the docu-ment that governs how B.C. munici-palities are run.And he says the District of MapleRidge receives far more from his ex-pertise as a realtor than the yearly$43,051 he earns as councillor.One property Hogarth is current-ly selling is a 21-unit condo com-plex called Urban Green, at 22858Lougheed Hwy., where he’s themain realtor.If he sells the units without an-other realtor involved, he can earn5.5 per cent on the ﬁrst $100,000and 2.5 per cent on the balance of the price for each condominium.Prices on the Urban Green web-site start at $151,900 for a one-bedroom unit and $182,800 for twobedrooms.Hogarth will have to split thecommissions on most of the units,and combined with other fees, willmake about $1,500 on each sale.As a councillor, in March 2008, hevoted in favour of a development andvariance permit for the project.That was before he had any con-nection with the investor or any in-terest in that project.“I actually didn’t even know thosefolks until 2010. I didn’t have a cluewho they were in 2008.”Hogarth said there isn’t a conﬂictbecause he had no connection withthe project at the time of voting.That’s supported by Mayor ErnieDaykin, who said if Hogarth isn’tunder contract there’s no beneﬁtto him.“He knows the rules. He knowsthe standards.”According to the Charter, council-lors can’t join in discussions or at-tend meetings if they have a director indirect ﬁnancial interest in anagenda item.However, he excused himself from a June 20 council discussionon another application, a six-storeyofﬁce-condo complex proposed for223rd Street and Lougheed High-way, even though he has no ﬁnan-cial interest in it. That project isﬁnanced by the same investors whobuilt Urban Green.He hasn’t been chosen to marketthat project, although it’s been dis-cussed.“I’m certainly hopeful of it, butthat’s up to them.”The application was at its ﬁrststage in the application process, atcommittee meeting, which means,as it progresses through the ap-proval stage and different readings,Hogarth will have to excuse himself each time.Speirs wants to change the Char-ter to preclude politicians fromvoting on something in which theymay later have an interest.“If you can vote on something oneweek and sell it the next, I thinkthat’s a conﬂict,” Speirs says.“From my way of thinking, thatshouldn’t be allowed.“I don’t think it’s a good positionfor anybody to be in, to have to betheir own moral compass.”Hogarth says Speirs likes to keepraising the topic, but the Commu-nity Charter and the Election Actallow him to earn a living.“I’m extremely conﬁdent in howI’m doing things,” Hogarth said,adding that he doubts if the num-ber of applications in which he’sinvolved account for even half aper cent of what lands on council’sdesk.He was the one who alerted mu-nicipal staff about the three acresfor sale at Selkirk Avenue and 227thStreet.He had a client who was lookingat the property.Hogarth, though, gave up his cli-ent and told the district about theopportunity.It didn’t take long to convince oth-ers in municipal hall to make thepurchase, without his involvementin the transaction, so the districtcould move forward with its plansto improve the downtown.The district has cleared the prop-erty, then will resell it, providingthe new buyer has a plan for devel-oping it.“I think it was the best decision wemade for a long time. Did I make adime on it? Absolutely not.“Personally, I think the citizens of this community are getting prettydecent value out me compared toone or two others.”Speirs says politicians have to beextra careful to avoid even an ap-pearance of conﬂict.It’s that general perception thatcould explain voter apathy and lowturnout at election time, he added.“We can get ourselves into troubleso quickly. Maybe it’s reality, maybeit’s perception.”He said Hogarth did the rightthing by walking away from discus-sions on the 223rd Street project,“and I applaud him on that.”Everything Hogarth has done hasbeen upright, Speirs added.At the June 20 committee meet-ing, Hogarth also excused himself from another subdivision proposalfor Lougheed Highway and 242ndStreet. Hogarth doesn’t have anyinterest in the property, but is man-aging another separate property forthe applicant.“Anything that I have any inklingof any involvement in, whether it’sproperty management for a com-pany or for an individual, I’m verydiligent about making that declara-tion.”The same goes for when he’s mak-ing an inquiry for clients at munici-pal hall. That’s part of his job as arealtor he said, adding he knowswhat staff can and can’t do and hefollows the rules.He disagreed that working as acouncillor helped his real estatebusiness.“Clearly, it’s basically somewhatof a hindrance at times.”Speirs respects realtors for theirgood work and for being boosters of their communities.But he maintains, they shouldn’tbe allowed to sit on municipal coun-cils.“It’s fraught with conﬂict.”Last year, he wrote to the B.C.Local Government Elections TaskForce, saying those in the develop-ment industry shouldn’t be allowedto vote on land-use decisions.That suggestion was ignored inthe report issued later. It insteadcalled for limiting election spend-ing, but not campaign contribu-tions.Speirs also disagrees with coun-cillors voting on proposals put forthby the same people who donated totheir election campaigns.That’s why he excused himself from a June 20 council vote on asubdivision proposal at 104th Av-enue and 245B Street.One of the proponents, RebeccaAwram, was Speirs’s largest con-tributor in the 2008 election, writ-ing him a cheque for $500.“When somebody gives you largeamounts of cash, you shouldn’t bemaking a decision on somethingthat would beneﬁt them.“To me, it’s a bit of a no-brainer asfar as conﬂict goes.”He also said it was “ridiculous”when council voted last year in fa-vour of sending the Pelton Nurseryland exclusion application to theAgricultural Land Reserve, whenthe family donated to some council-lors’ campaigns.Norm and Betty Pelton made thelargest single contribution to May-or Ernie Daykin’s 2008 campaign,topping all donors with a contribu-tion of $3,500.Norm and Betty Pelton also con-tributed $250 each to the 2008 cam-paigns of three others on council,Judy Dueck, Mike Morden andHogarth. Councillors have said inthe past that the donations don’tinﬂuence their voting.Hogarth, along with Couns.Cheryl Ashlie, Dueck, Morden andMayor Daykin voted to send the ap-plication to the commission, whichlater rejected it.Coun. Morden also excuses him-self from any discussion about thedowntown incentive plan that coun-cil created to attract investment.He owns a property that used to beoutside the downtown area, but isnow within the borders.Public perception is the key,Morden said.But he said contributions fromthe Peltons had no inﬂuence on hisdecision to support the ALC exclu-sion application; he just wantedto see jobs and economic develop-ment in the area.Speirs doesn’t expect anythingto change with Maple Ridge coun-cil because councillors use thosecontributions to help pay for theircampaigns.“You won’t hear my council bring-ing it up. It’s just not going to hap-pen.“This council is not interestedincreasing voter turnout becausethey know they can get re-electedwith the folks that show up today.”He likes the legal advice that gen-erally states, if it feels like a conﬂict– it is.And just because something’s le-gal, Speirs said, doesn’t mean it’sright.
Councillor votes for project, then sells it
Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS
Al Hogarth, a realtor, is currently marketing a condo complex on Lougheed Highway that, as a councillor, he voted for.
Craig Speirs doesn’t thinkthat should be allowed,although nothing incharter prevents it
“I think it was the bestdecision we made for a longtime. Did I make a dime onit? Absolutely not.”
Coun. Al Hogarth
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