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Special prosecutor appointed to campaign finance investigation of West Van mayor

Elections BC referred the case involving West Vancouver Mayor Mark Sager’s election spending to police last year
West Vancouver Mayor Mark Sager presides over a budget committee meeting Feb. 26. Special prosecutor John Gordon has been appointed to oversee an investigation into alleged campaign finance irregularities by Sager during the last municipal election. | Nick Laba / North Shore News

A special prosecutor has been appointed to oversee a police investigation into allegations of campaign finance irregularities by West Vancouver Mayor Mark Sager during the last civic election campaign.

The BC Prosecution Service announced Monday that John M. Gordon, KC, has been appointed special prosecutor in the case. Gordon is a senior lawyer who has been involved as a Crown prosecutor in a number of high-profile criminal appeal cases.

Special prosecutors are often appointed in cases where the subject is a senior public official, in order to avoid any perception of improper influence in the case.

Gordon’s role will include providing legal advice to investigators in the Port Moody Police Department, who have conduct of the case, and deciding if any charges should be laid.

In December, Elections BC confirmed that it had “identified potential spending irregularities” during a review of Sager’s campaign financing disclosure report for the 2022 civic election and had referred the case to the RCMP. The matter was later turned over to the Port Moody Police Department for investigation.

Sager told the North Shore News at the time he was “beyond shocked” by the investigation, calling it “about as grossly unfair as anything I’ve ever seen.”

Both Elections BC and the Port Moody Police Department have refused to provide further details of what they’re investigating.

Sager said in December the only inkling he’s had about what could be involved is a phone call from Elections BC asking for details about the purchase of office furniture for the mayor’s office after the election from money leftover in his campaign account. Sager said he checked with Elections BC before using the money to do that and was told it was no problem.

Campaign finance reports made public a year ago showed Sager spent more than $93,000 on his successful bid to get elected. Sager also raised just shy of $87,000 in campaign donations.

Elections BC capped expenses for West Vancouver mayoral candidates for the campaign period between Sept. 17 and Oct. 15 at a little more than $34,000.

Sager recorded expenses of $33,000 during the campaign period.

Sager’s biggest expenses, however, were recorded in the run-up prior to the official start of the campaign, which limits don’t apply to.

Last week, the Law Society of B.C. announced that Sager has been suspended from practising law in B.C. for a period of two years after he admitted to professional misconduct in his handling of an elderly client’s estate.

According to the terms of the agreement, Sager must relinquish his roles in the handling of several other estates, from April onwards.

Sager can re-apply to have his legal credentials re-instated after the two-year suspension is up.