Day two of retrial for former Deputy Reeve charged with breach of trust
REGINA -- A retrial focused on a private conversation between the former Reeve and Deputy Reeve of the R.M. of Sherwood continued on Wednesday.
Tim Probe, former councillor and Deputy Reeve of the R.M. of Sherwood, has pleaded not guilty to a breach of trust change.
He was originally found not guilty of this charge, and a municipal corruption charge, in June 2018. However, the crown successfully appealed Probe’s acquittal on the breach of trust charge.
The charge stems from a Feb. 1, 2016 coffee shop conversation between Probe and Jeffrey Poissant, the former Reeve of the R.M. of Sherwood. During the conversation, which Poissant recorded, it’s alleged Probe offered an illegal vote trade with Poissant, with each to support one another on R.M. issues.
One of the contentious R.M. matters was a Suncor 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. A council meeting saw this proposal defeated, with Probe voting against it. Probe told the court Poissant’s parents approached him after that meeting, and were very upset he voted against the Suncor development.
Probe testified on Wednesday that he was in favour of the commercial development “to help with the R.M.’s tax base,” however he had major concerns about heavy truck traffic issues.
Probe said he understood that for a matter to come back to council, one of those who voted against it had to bring it forward as a new motion. He said he was willing to bring it back to council, if his traffic concerns were addressed.
The other issue facing the council at that time was a legal fees reimbursement bylaw for councillors. Probe had been reimbursed approximately $50,000 in legal fees, after an inquiry into a previous R.M. development.
On occasion in the past, Probe said the R.M. reimbursed legal fees incurred by councillors during R.M. work, however there was no formalities in place for how repayment of legal fees should be addressed.
A bylaw on legal fees reimbursement was later introduced, however a Queen’s Bench decision quashed the bylaw. Poissant testified ratepayers brought the issue up again at a January 2016 council meeting.
The crown argued Probe offered his support for the Suncor development, in exchange for Poissant’s support in the legal fees dispute.
Poissant told the court he didn’t tell Probe he was recording the Feb. 1, 2016 meeting. He said he was a relatively new reeve at that point in time, so he often brought a recording device to his meetings, to make sure he didn’t miss any details.
Poissant said he ran for his position as reeve, to create harmony on council. He said he knew there was some past animosity between his family and Probe’s family, so that was also a reason why he agreed to meet Probe for coffee.
Poissant, who was the final witness to be called by the crown, told the court he left the Feb. 1, 2016 meeting feeling like Probe made “kind of an offer.”
When Probe took the stand on Wednesday afternoon, he said he did not make Poissant an offer during the Feb. 1, 2016 meeting.
Probe said he arranged the meeting with Poissant to open the doors for better communication, to work towards a more harmonious council, and to discuss the divisive issues on council at the time.
“I saw the council as being divided on two issues: the repayment of legal fees and the Suncor issue,” Probe testified.
Probe said he never told Poissant he would support the Suncor development without addressing safety concerns, if Poissant supported Probe in the legal fees dispute.
Probe said he only brought up the legal fees dispute to discuss what it would cost the R.M., not for any personal benefit.
The crown will begin cross-examination of Probe on Thursday. The trial by judge alone is expected to last through to Friday.