RM of Sherwood councillor accused of corruption says he did not offer vote-trading deal

A rural municipality of Sherwood councillor accused of corruption says he did not offer the reeve a vote-trade for his personal advantage.

Closing arguments in the case begin Thursday

Tim Probe is facing charges of municipal corruption and breach of trust. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

A rural municipality of Sherwood councillor accused of corruption says he did not offer the reeve a vote-trade for his personal advantage.

Tim Probe has pleaded not guilty to charges of municipal corruption and breach of trust. Probe was questioned on the stand Wednesday at the Court of Queen's Bench in Regina.

The Crown alleges Probe offered the rural municipality's reeve, Jeff Poissant, to vote in favour of a truck stop development. In exchange, Poissant would not seek for Probe to reimburse the rural municipality nearly $50,000 in legal fees.

The main evidence presented against Probe is an audio recording, made secretly by Poissant, of a conversation between the two rural municipality councillors at a Tim Hortons on Feb. 1, 2016.

The hour and a half long tape is filled with loud background noise and it is hard to make out a lot of the conversation.

But on the tape, it's alleged Probe can be heard saying things like, "I can probably get this part moving if we can put the other matter to bed","I'm not going to do one without the other" and "You do your thing over here, I'll do my thing here and we'll meet together."

Probe testified his lobbying in the conversation on the tape was "to create a more harmonious council" and to bring the council together on divisive issues it was facing at the time.

Tim Probe was asked to step down from his role as councillor, but refused to resign. He is still on council, but is currently on leave. (CBC)

Traffic safety

Probe testified that his vote on the truck stop was conditional on addressing his concerns with traffic safety for the development — not on the legal fees issue.

He said that in the conversation on the tape, he was referring to the issues of the legal fees and the truck stop development independent of one another.

The truck stop development was proposed to be located on the north side of Highway 1 and Fleming Road.

Probe said he had concerns about traffic crossing the highway to get to the truck stop on the north side of the highway and increased traffic in the area.

Probe testified that for the development to go ahead, he would have liked to see an overpass or traffic lights at the intersection.

Poissant's family stood to benefit from the development going ahead, as they owned the land.

Both Poissant and Probe testified that before they went into that secretly recorded meeting, Probe's family and the Poissant family had a history of bad blood.

Probe testified Wednesday that after he had voted against the project and it was defeated with a tie vote, Poissant's parents had "accosted" him.

He said going into the meeting with Poissant that day, he felt he had an obligation to create a council that could work together for the coming four years.

The Rural Municipality of Sherwood office. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Legal fees

Probe had amassed nearly $50,000 in legal fees when he was called as a witness in another case in 2014 looking into conflict of interest issues around the rural municipality's former reeve, Kevin Eberle. The rural municipality had reimbursed Probe for those legal fees.

Probe testified that he thought it appropriate for the rural municipality to pay the fees, as he had incurred them while doing his duties as a councillor and it had been done in the past.

After a bylaw that supported the councillors being reimbursed for legal fees was quashed, there were discussions surrounding whether the councillors should reimburse the rural municipality.

Probe acknowledged $50,000 was a "significant" amount of money to him, and he sought legal opinions about the likelihood he would be asked to reimburse the rural municipality.

Lawyers had told him it was unlikely, because it would cost a lot of money for the RM to legally pursue that — and there was no guarantee the councillors would be obliged to pay back the money.

Probe admitted he saw a benefit in resolving both of those issues to bring together the divided council, but he testified he did not offer a bribe or blackmail Poissant in that meeting.

Closing arguments for the trial will begin Thursday morning.