West Vancouver mayor says investigation prompted by used furniture

A special prosecutor has been appointed to oversee an investigation into allegations of campaign finance irregularities made against West Vancouver Mayor Mark Sager.

The Port Moody Police Department is investigating Sager, with the claims related to his 2022 municipal election campaign.

The BC Prosecution Service says Special Prosecutor John Gordon is being appointed to “avoid any potential for real or perceived improper influence in the administration of justice given the subject of the investigation is a public official in a senior position of authority.”

“Mr. Gordon’s mandate includes: to provide legal advice to the investigators as may be necessary, conduct any related charge assessment, and assume conduct of the prosecution if any charges are approved,” the BCPS explained in a release Monday.

I did the mayor’s office without a dime of taxpayers’ money

What this all revolves around is still not exactly clear. However, Sager tells CityNews it appears it comes down to used furniture.

“That’s what I understand. I was, last October, talking to Elections BC about some used furniture I bought with leftover campaign funds and they were concerned because I didn’t have receipts, but I do have all the cancelled cheques. You don’t usually get receipts when you buy things on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. Anyway, I thought it was a very wise use of funds and I didn’t want to waste taxpayers’ money refurnishing the mayor’s office,” he said Monday.

“After I was elected, I had some funds left over from the campaign and, I guess I’m not being unkind, but most people throw a party with those funds and I thought, ‘No, I’m not going to do that.’

“The way the mayor’s office was done up at quite some expense by my predecessor, I wanted to change it. I really like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist and I went and found some furniture, got some nice lamps from one of my neighbours down the street, a sofa from somebody in North Van, a chair from somebody in Caulfeild,” he continued.

Overall, he tells CityNews the sofa cost around $1,500, the chair was about $250, and the lamps were around $50 each. Sager adds he also bought a desk and table from an outlet store, for which he says there are receipts.

“I did the mayor’s office without a dime of taxpayers’ money and I really think it looks pretty nice,” Sager said.

Elections BC confirmed late last year that Sager was the subject of an ongoing investigation around “potential spending irregularities” that were identified during a review of his 2022 campaign.

“When we identify a potential contravention of legislation, we can conduct an investigation ourselves or forward the file to one of our law enforcement partners,” Elections BC said in a statement to CityNews in November 2023.

“Whether or not we decide to forward a file depends on factors like our capacity, which legislation is involved, and the facts of the case.”

However, Elections BC didn’t get into specifics, only saying it initially brought the matter to the RCMP, who then referred it to Port Moody police.

Port Moody police have confirmed to CityNews they are investigating a case forwarded by Elections BC. However, the department could not say who it was investigating, only explaining the case was open and active.

Port Moody police have confirmed to CityNews they are investigating a case forwarded by Elections BC. However, the department could not say who it was investigating, only explaining the case was open and active.

Mayor says he consulted Elections BC before buying the furniture

Sager says he has been “a little bit surprised” by the whole ordeal. He claims he spoke with “a really nice fellow” at Elections BC before he made the purchases in 2022.

“Because I had been talking to Elections BC and the last discussion or the last email I had with them, they were asking for my email chain for the Facebook purchases, and I couldn’t produce that. Of course, I realize now the reason is Facebook Messenger messages … I had used an old phone and those messages didn’t transfer over to my new phone,” Sager explained.

“I found my old phone and found at least one of the chains. In any event, I have cheques, I know where all the people are who I bought the furniture from because I physically moved it myself.”

This isn’t the first bit of controversy Sager has found himself in recently. Just last week, the Law Society of BC announced Sager, who is a lawyer by trade, was barred from practicing for two years after he admitted to three instances of “professional misconduct.” The misconduct was in relation to the preparation of a client’s will, the LSBC explained, adding the prohibition would begin on April 1.

Sager, meanwhile, told CityNews last week he was going to resign from his Law Society membership as of that date, and “refocus my complete attention on our community.”

“When I was elected mayor, I committed to leaving my legal practice to devote all of my time to the important issues facing West Vancouver. Unfortunately, complaints to the Law Society delayed my resignation. Five of the eight allegations against me have been dropped and three minor issues have been settled,” he said in a statement on Feb. 28.

Prior to being elected mayor in 2022, Sager spent several stints in public office. He served as a school trustee from 1979 to 1983, and was a councillor from 1983 to 1990. He served as mayor from 1991 until 1996, when he took a step back to focus on family.

-With files from Charlie Carey and Renee Bernard

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