Judge orders new trial for former RM of Sherwood councillor
Appeals court found there were errors made by the trial judge
After an appeal from the Crown, a Saskatchewan judge has ordered a new trial for former RM of Sherwood councillor Tim Probe. He was found not guilty of municipal corruption and breach of trust in June of 2018.
Justice Robert W. Leurer found Wednesday that there were errors made by the trial judge, including not considering a part of The Municipalities Act in the decision.
"However, in my respectful view, the trial judge erred in law by failing to account for s. 144(2) of The Municipalities Act, SS 2005, c M-36.1, which provides that no member of a municipal council shall attempt to influence the discussion or voting on any question, decision, recommendation or other action to be taken involving a matter in which the member of council has a conflict of interest," Leurer wrote in the decision.
Probe refused to resign after being found to be in a conflict of interest for his involvement in a council meeting on Jan. 13, 2016.
At that meeting, it was discussed whether or not Probe should reimburse the rural municipality for nearly $50,000 in legal fees. Probe did not recuse himself from those discussions before the council.
Probe and other members of council had incurred legal fees while testifying during another case. They had been reimbursed by the rural municipality for those fees.
The RM council brought an application to the Court of Queen's Bench of Saskatchewan to have him disqualified, with a judge ruling in January 2018 that Probe be removed.
Probe's removal from council and his trial on municipal corruption and breach of trust are separate.
The Crown had alleged that Probe offered the rural municipality's reeve, Jeff Poissant, a vote trading deal, where he would vote in favour of a truck stop development for Poissant, and in exchange, Poissant would not seek to have Probe reimburse the rural municipality nearly $50,000 in legal fees incurred in the previous case.
The main evidence presented against Probe was an audio recording, made secretly by Poissant, of a conversation between the two rural municipality councillors at a Tim Hortons on Feb. 1, 2016.
Probe's lawyer Aaron Fox said that as evidence unfolded during the trial, he felt it became clear that Probe had legitimate concerns about issues discussed at that meeting.
He said the discussion between Poissant and Probe was focused on ways to resolve the differences and issues between the pair.
"As long as those discussions are taking place for legitimate purposes, then there's nothing criminal about it. And that's what the trial judge found here," said Fox at the time.