VICTORIA – A special prosecutor has been appointed in British Columbia to handle a case involving 24 sex-related charges against a former mayor of Burns Lake.
The prosecution service says Vancouver lawyer Leonard Doust will conduct an independent assessment of the charges based on a report that has been submitted to the Crown by investigators.
Court documents show Luke Strimbold was charged on Feb. 3 with 24 offences, including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual touching of a person under the age of 16 and invitation to sexual touching.
The charges are related to four complainants, including three people under the age of 16, involving offences that allegedly took place between October 2015 and November 2017.
RCMP have said they are investigating the possibility there are more complainants.
None of the allegations against Strimbold have been tested in court.
Court records say Strimbold, 28, is due to appear in court in Burns Lake on April 6.
The prosecution service said Wednesday the decision to appoint Doust was made because Strimbold is a former elected official with “significant connections” to the B.C. Liberal party.
It says Doust’s appointment is “intended to avoid any potential for real or perceived improper influence in the administration of justice.”
Doust will also conduct the prosecution if a trial proceeds.
Strimbold served as membership chair for the B.C. Liberals. Party officials said they became aware of the charges against him on Friday and that Strimbold had resigned as both a member of the executive and as a member of the party.
Strimbold was the youngest mayor in B.C. history when he was elected in 2011 at the age of 21.
He led the community through a deadly explosion at a sawmill in 2012 that killed two men and injured 19 others.
In 2013, he was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for community service. A year later, BCBusiness magazine named Strimbold one of the Top 30 leaders under the age of 30, recognizing his efforts to successfully rebuild the local economy.
Strimbold was re-elected in 2014 but resigned in September 2016, saying he wanted to further his education and spend more time with his family.