After eight-month OPP investigation requested by the Ottawa and District Labour Council
Ottawa (11 Dec. 2007) - Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien has been charged with two Criminal Code offences related to allegations that he attempted to bribe an opponent to quit the mayoralty race in the capital city of Canada.
Terry Kilrea, who says he did not accept an offer of $30,000 in campaign expenses, and did not get an appointment to the National Parole Board that he alleges O'Brien offered to secure through federal Conservative connections, dropped out of the race after two meetings with O'Brien. One was held in a Tim Horton's parking lot in the summer of 2006.
O'Brien, then the sole remaining right-of-centre candidate, won the election over incumbent Bob Chiarelli and left-of-centre candidate Alex Munter.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) announced Monday, after an extensive investigation requested last winter by the Ottawa and District Labour Council (ODLC), that O'Brien has been charged under Section 121(1)(d)(ii) of the Criminal Code with "pretending to have influence with the government or a minister" and under Section 125(b) for "negotiating an appointment."
O'Brien is a prominent businessman who made millions in the high-tech sector before getting into politics. Currently in a fight to slash city staff and services to keep a campaign promise to freeze property taxes for four years, the mayor makes his first court appearance on Jan. 9.
Labour council request
ODLC president Sean McKenny made a formal request in March for an investigation after Kilrea's allegations against O'Brien were published by the Ottawa Citizen. The newspaper based its reports on an affidavit sworn by Kilrea and on the results of a lie detector test he also took at the time.
McKenny took action after it became apparent that no one in authority was doing anything to look into the matter.
The mayor said initially that he wanted an investigation to clear his name but he did not file a formal request to initiate one. In turn, the Ottawa Police force took no action and nothing was done by any of Ottawa's city council members, nor anyone at the provincial or federal level.
The lack of action occurred despite the fact that Kilrea's affidavit, by then in general circulation, mentioned two prominent federal Conservatives – John Baird, treasury board president at the time, and John Reynolds, a senior lobbyist and close adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Both have denied any improper actions in the affair. Denials have also been issued by several other Conservatives whose names have also been mentioned.
Initially, McKenny sent the Kilrea affidavit to Ontario's municipal affairs minister and attorney-general. When he got no response, he sent it to the Ottawa chief of police with a letter asking for an investigation.
Finally, something happened. The Ottawa force acknowledged the request and turned the matter over to the OPP.
Since then, the OPP's Anti-Rackets Section has spent more than eight months on the case. The section provides specialized investigative resources to the OPP, municipal police services and government ministries on a wide variety of matters, including cases of economic crime, political corruption, secret commissions, identity theft, cheque and document frauds and health frauds.
Mayor should step aside
Contacted Monday, McKenny was pleased the OPP has completed its investigation and said he hopes Mayor O'Brien will now step aside until his case is resolved. This is what most city hall employees would be expected to do, he noted.
When a municipal employee is caught up in a serious legal matter, one of three things usually transpires, McKenny added. "They are moved to another desk; they step aside with pay until the issue is settled, or they step aside without pay... I think a leave of absence with pay would be appropriate in the mayor's case until the charges are resolved."
He declined to speculate on what may happen but said, "Clearly the OPP thinks there is substance to the case." Asked whether an investigation would have taken place without the council's intervention, McKenny said, "Probably not."
"I don't think it's a happy day for the city," he added. "It's a sad day.... If you think it has been a mess at city hall for the past year, it is now going to get a whole lot worse than that now."
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