SURREY — A former Surrey city planner has pleaded guilty to breach of trust in connection with allegations that he took bribes from developers and lied to the city.
Akonyu Geoffrey Akolo entered the plea Thursday in Provincial Court in Surrey.
Akolo was also charged with municipal corruption, lying to deceive the city, fraudulent concealment and accepting a bribe - charges that will likely be stayed after sentencing.
A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 28.
The breach of trust concerned an application filed by Jack Saran for a townhouse development called Keystone in South Surrey.
As a planner, Akolo was responsible for collecting fees owed by developers whose applications were assigned to him and reporting to the city whether an applicant had paid the required fees and fulfilled the preconditions.
Saran, who owns Forge Properties Inc., alleges that Akolo approached him to pay a bribe of tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for saving Saran money on development fees.
"I was shocked. I did hear some stories before I didn't believe, but when this happened to me it was quite a shock," Saran said outside court Thursday.
Not knowing how to respond, Saran said, he asked Akolo for some time to think - then he went to the city and police.
"In the beginning I don't think anybody believed it," Saran said.
Akolo was fired from his job with the city in February 2010 and in April of that year the City of Surrey filed a lawsuit against him, later adding unnamed developers and an unnamed female who allegedly helped Akolo with his transactions.
The suit alleges breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, intentional and negligent misrepresentation, conversion and misappropriation of funds, fraud and deceit.
In a written response, Akolo denied the allegations.
Criminal charges weren't laid until nearly a year after the civil suit was filed.
Saran said that after spending more than two years dealing with court system, he feels better now that Akolo has admitted to breach of trust.
"If somebody is doing something wrong, you should be responsible for these things," Saran said. "In the end I'm glad he made the right choice in pleading himself guilty."
However, Saran believes the scandal goes beyond Akolo.
"Many people have their hands dirty and don't want to be named," Saran said.
When asked for comment on the plea, the status of the civil case or whether other city staff are being investigated, Surrey's solicitor Craig MacFarlane said he could not comment on either the civil or criminal case because the proceedings are ongoing.
© Copyright 2013