RM of Sherwood councilor Tim Probe takes the stand in corruption trial
Rural Municipality (RM) of Sherwood councillor Tim Probe said his goal was to do the best thing for the RM and his constituents, but others may not see it that way.
Probe took the stand Wednesday morning to testify in his breach of trust by a public office and municipal corruption trial.
It’s alleged that Probe offered to trade votes with Reeve Jeff Poissant during a recorded conversation at a coffee shop on February 1, 2016. The allegation is Probe offered to vote in favour of the approval of a Suncor service station at the corner of Highway 1 and Flemming Road if Poissant voted against recovering legal fees paid out to the former Reeve and councillors, including Probe.
Probe did not know Poissant was recording the conversation.
During a 2014 conflict of interest inquiry, Probe accumulated $50,000 in legal fees. He was reimbursed by the RM in late 2014, after a bylaw to repay council legal fees was passed in October 2014. The Court of Queen’s Bench quashed that bylaw in September 2015, but required no action to pay back legal fees.
The discussion began in council on whether or not to try and recover the paid out legal fees.
Probe said he received multiple legal opinions, including one from the RM’s legal counsel during the conflict of interest inquiry McKercher LLP. According to Probe, all the lawyers told him it would be incredibly difficult for the RM to recover the legal fees.
Probe had recused himself previously from votes directly concerning the RM trying to recover legal fees.
He said he was under the impression that it would cost the RM much more than the $250,000 in legal fees paid out to the former Reve and councillors to recover that money. Probe did acknowledge that if the RM did not seek repayment he stood to benefit financially.
He defended his stance in saying that there was no guarantee the RM would win a legal battle to recover those legal fees and moving on would save ratepayers money in the end.
Later in the recorded conversation, Probe can be heard saying he would be willing to vote in favour of the Suncor development if safety concerns were addressed.
He said he was worried about the “all-level” entrance to the service station that would see increased traffic at the Highway 1 intersection. He referenced fatalities at a similar intersection on Highway 1 east of Regina near White City and Balgonie.
Probe told the court he wanted to see an interchange at that intersection or stop lights.
The RM council ultimately voted in favour of the Suncor service station during a May 2016 council meeting. However, the Ministry of Highways rejected the idea of having an all-level crossing.
The development was ultimately cancelled.
In cross-examination, Crown prosecutor David Belanger pressed Probe on why he did not declare a conflict on interest in certain meetings surrounding the repayment of legal fees.
Probe responded that he felt there was no conflict when council was discussing whether or not to appeal the Court of Queen’s Bench quashing the indemnity bylaw, and received no indication there may be a conflict of interest in that matter. He did however recuse himself from discussions relating directly to whether or not council would seek repayment of reimbursed legal fees.
Belanger pointed out that Probe can be heard saying “I’m not doing one without the other” on the recorded conversation in reference to the offer to trade votes with Poissant.
Probe admitted he did say that, but that was not his intended meaning. He said that he misspoke on that matter. At other points in the recorded conversation Probe said he would be willing to vote in favour of the Suncor development if safety concerns are met.
The trial was scheduled to conclude Wednesday, but will continue into Thursday. Both the Crown and defence will be submitting their final pieces of evidence before the judge begins to consider his decision.