Councillor Gayle Martin convinced her Langley City colleagues to make one last attempt at getting Serena Oh to pay a portion of the municipality’s court costs during a drawn-out legal battle over a 2016 byelection. File

Challenger of Langley City by-election pressed to pay court costs

Councillor Gayle Martin convinces colleagues to send letter to recover expenses

Serena Oh is about to receive a letter urging her to pay $6,000 in court costs that the unsuccessful council candidate was assessed during her legal battle to overturn the 2016 Langley City municipal byelection.

Langley City Council unanimously voted to send the letter Monday night at the urging of councillor Gayle Martin.

Martin was reacting to a report to council by Deputy Corporate Officer Paula Kusack that Oh has not paid a portion of the City’s legal expenses.

Orders awarding court costs were issued by the B.C. Supreme Court and the BC Court of Appeal after Oh tried and failed to convince the two courts to declare the by-election invalid.

While the report said legal counsel had warned against pursuing repayment in the courts because it would cost more than the potential amount recovered, Martin said the City still ought to attempt to recover the money by sending a less-expensive letter.

“I think we should try,” Martin said.

“(Even though) I don’t think much will happen.”

Martin said she agreed with legal counsel that taking Oh to court would be ill-advised.

“I certainly would not advocate for further legal expense,” Martin said.

Martin called the court action “totally ridiculous.”

Oh sued after finishing last of of nine candidates in the byelection that saw Nathan Pachal take a seat on City Council.

The byelection was called to fill the vacancy created when Dave Hall resigned his seat, shortly before he died.

READ MORE: Call him ‘Councillor Pachal,’ now

Following the election, Oh sued to overturn the results, claiming that 1,500 to 2,000 votes had been destroyed.

The case was heard by the BC Supreme Court in April 2016 and by the BC Court of Appeal in January 2017.

She lost both times, with the judges saying there was insufficient evidence to establish Oh’s allegations and ordering that she should pay a portion of the city legal expenses.

In July, Oh sought leave to appeal the Supreme Court of Canada.

On November 30, her application was denied by all of the judges on the Supreme Court of Canada.

The City was again awarded costs, but determining the exact amount would require an application and more legal expenses.

The total legal costs for the case are estimated at $27,000, almost half the $55,000 annual City budget for legal matters.

READ MORE: Failed challenge of Langley City byelection cost $27,000

According to court records of the B.C. Supreme Court hearing to have the election declared invalid , Oh said she had carried out various “inspections” on March 24, March 29, March 31 and April 1, 2016 of ballots of people “that I randomly picked who voted for me.”

New Westminster B.C. Supreme Court Justice Brenda Brown ruled there was no adequate evidence to support Oh’s claim.

“She seems to have concluded that people voted, but their votes were not counted or ballots were destroyed or some such, but there is simply no evidence to support that conclusion,” Justice Brown wrote.

When Oh went to the B.C. Court of Appeal, she lost again.

“We have questioned Ms. Oh … as to how she can state categorically that the votes of particular people were not counted. What we gleaned from her was that since she had expected to receive 123 votes at least, some fraud must have occurred because she received only 57,” Justice Mary Newbury said, speaking for the three-judge panel that upheld the Supreme Court decision.

Oh could not be reached for comment.



dan.ferguson@langleytimes.com

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