Closing arguments delivered in retrial of former Deputy Reeve
REGINA -- The court heard closing arguments in the retrial of Tim Probe, the former councillor and deputy reeve of the Rural Municipality (R.M.) of Sherwood on Friday.
Probe pleaded not guilty to breach of trust, in connection to an alleged conversation he had with Jeffrey Poissant, the former reeve of the R.M. of Sherwood in February 2016.
In 2016, Probe had a conversation with Poissant, who was the reeve of the R.M. at the time, about a development project Probe voted against in October of 2015.
The project was comprised of a Suncore Energy truck stop development, proposed to be placed on 14 acres of Poissant’s parent’s land for an offer of approximately $35,000 per acre.
Poissant claimed Probe would vote for the development if Poissant voted for an agenda item Probe wanted.
Poissant said Probe wanted him to vote for a bylaw that would see the R.M. reimburse councillors for the cost of legal fees. Probe had previously received a payment of approximately $50,000 from the R.M. for the cost of legal fees.
Poissant recorded the conversation he had with Probe but since the pair met at a Tim Horton’s, the audio was hard to understand.
On Friday, Crown Prosecutor, David Bélanger argued that since Probe recused himself from the issue of legal fees, engaging in a conversation about that issue was breaching the Municipalities Act.
“It was an attempt to put the legal fees issue to bed for his own benefit,” Bélanger said.
Bélanger also argued that Probe had an agenda by engaging in a conversation with Poissant. Bélanger said Probe will argue the conversation was a way to bring harmony into a divisive council, but it was also to Probe's benefit.
Defence lawyer, Aaron Fox said the harmony issue is significant because it's the background that led up to the meeting. It's important to look at the situation of the council on that day.
Fox said that the R.M. of Sherwood’s council was in a divisive state in 2016 and since Poissant was new to the job of reeve, Probe wanted to inform Poissant of the issues. Fox said that Probe felt that was his responsibility because he held the position of deputy reeve.
"The new reeve was elected on a platform of restoring harmony to the council and he identified that there were a couple of significant divisive issues and was interested in seeing if those could be resolved," Fox said. "Mr. Probe shared the view that he was interested in seeing it resolved as well as move forward."
Fox also said the conversation wasn’t shrouded in secrecy and there was never a time where Probe told Poissant he shouldn’t tell anyone about this conversation. Fox said both men agreed they would continue this conversation with other councillors and ratepayers.
Fox also added that after the meeting, both men agreed that it was an “amicable meeting.”
"It's against that background you have this discussion because the whole question is, what was the purpose of the meeting? If the purpose of the meeting was to deal with the issues and an upfront way to try and restore harmony to council is one of those factors, then there's no offence," Fox said.
Earlier in the week, Probe took the stand was cross-examined.
“Would you agree with me that when you have a personal interest, would you agree that one of your obligations would be not to discuss this matter with other members of council outside of council chambers?” Bélanger asked.
Probe said he disagreed with the statement because all councillors will have some personal stake in all issues in the R.M. because they live there.
“I believed if there was a situation where you could gain you had to avoid that situation,” Probe said.
The crown continued its examination of Probe’s recollection of the conversation with Poissant and asked Probe about his intent.
Probe claimed he would never agree to the Suncore project unless his safety concerns were addressed.
He said he didn’t vote in favour of the Suncore project because of the increased traffic it would bring to the area and he worried it would cause a safety concern.
Probe said during his conversation he wanted to “create harmony” with Poissant who was a new reeve. Probe said there were divisive issues in the area and he wanted to properly inform Poissant about the situation.
“I had an obligation as well as a right to discuss those matters with him," Probe said.
This is the second time Probe has been on trial for the conversation in question. In 2018, Probe was found not guilty of breach of trust and municipal corruption but the Crown won an appeal hearing against the breach of trust charge.
Probe is being tried by Justice B. Scherman who will give his decision on January 22nd.
Scherman described this retrial as “an interesting and challenging matter.”