OPP charge Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien

Facing two charges under Criminal Code after allegations by election rival

Gary Dimmock, Ottawa Citizen

Published: Monday, December 10, 2007

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Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien has been formally charged after a lengthy investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police into allegations made by former mayoral candidate Terry Kilrea.

Mr. Kilrea has alleged, and the Citizen has reported, that Mr. O'Brien offered Mr. Kilrea cash and help in obtaining a federal government appointment if Mr. Kilrea would withdraw from race for mayor during the 2006 municipal election.

The mayor faces two Criminal Code charges, under Section 121 (1) (d) and the second under Section
125 (b).

The charges state that the mayor "did having or pretending to have influence with the Government of Canada, or with a Minister of the Government, directly or indirectly, offer, or agree, to accept for himself a reward, benefit or advantage of any kind, to wit: the withdrawal of Terry Kilrea from the 2006 Ottawa Mayoral race, as consideration for his co-operation, assistance or exercise of influence in connection with the appointment of Terry Kilrea to an office with the National Parole Board of Canada, contrary to section 121 (1) (d) of the Criminal Code of Canada.

"And further that at the said places and times, Larry O'Brien did solicit, recommend or negotiate with respect to an appointment to an office, to wit: an appointment for Terry Kilrea to the National Parole Board of Canada, in the expectation of a direct or indirect reward, advantage or benefit, to wit the withdrawal of Terry Kilrea from the 2006 Ottawa Mayoral race, contrary to section 125 (b) of the Criminal Code of Canada."

Last Friday, at the end of a relatively uneventful council meeting, Mr. O'Brien remained defiant, insisting he did nothing wrong. At the end of the council meeting, Mr. O'Brien said the investigation had been the source of "water-cooler gossip" and branded newspaper headlines as sensational and hilarious.

The OPP's anti-rackets section launched a probe after Mr. Kilrea alleged that Mr. O'Brien attempted to induce him to withdraw from the 2006 mayoral election including at a July meeting in the parking lot behind a Tim Hortons where, Mr. Kilrea swears, he turned down the alleged offer. At the request and expense of the Citizen, Mr. Kilrea swore his allegations in an affidavit and later passed a polygraph about its contents.

None of these allegations have been proven in court. However, if they are proven in court, they are violations of the criminal code and the municipal elections act, and, on conviction, they constitute grounds to remove a person from office.

In a taped interview with the Citizen on Jan. 12, Mr. O'Brien confirmed that he had met with his rival twice and acknowledged that he spoke about his opponent's out-of-pocket campaign expenses.

Mr. O'Brien also acknowledged that he later spoke to a lawyer about what he could and couldn't do to entice someone in or out of a campaign race.

Days after the Citizen interview - which neither Mike Patton, then the mayor's communications director, nor Walter Robinson, then the mayor's chief of staff, taped - the mayor's staff defended their boss.

The Ontario Provincial Police later went to court and obtained a production order forcing the Citizen to hand over to the OPP the tape of the Jan. 12 interview in the mayor's office as part of the bribery probe.

The OPP also obtained a search warrant to seize e-mail correspondence from 2006 between Mr. O'Brien, Mr. Kilrea, and John Baird, the member of Parliament for Ottawa West-Nepean and the federal minister of the environment in the Stephen Harper cabinet. Mr. Baird also handles federal appointments for Eastern Ontario. The police detectives got that warrant after some of the e-mail correspondence was featured on the front page of the Citizen.

On Friday, Mr. O'Brien dared the OPP to charge him issuing this denial.
"These alleged allegations and rumours are simply false," he said. He also said,
"I have never offered Mr.Kilrea a position on the parole board in exchange for his dropping out of the mayoralty race." the mayor said and he went on to address a rumour that Mr. Baird was involved.

"I have never had any discussion with Minister John Baird on the issue of an appointment with the parole board for Mr. Kilrea in exchange for him dropping out of the mayoralty race," Mr. O'Brien said.

OPP detectives have executed a production order at Hy's Steakhouse with the hopes of placing Mr. Baird and Mr. O'Brien together.

Mr. Baird told the Citizen that he has never talked about any appointment for Mr. Kilrea, and never even entertained it.

Mr. Baird also said he checked his appointment book and it showed no meeting with Mr. O'Brien. But the Conservative cabinet minister said he goes to Hy's Steakhouse often and could have bumped into Mr. O'Brien at the establishment.

On Friday, the mayor said he was speaking out in an attempt to quell the rumours. Indeed, in a pre-council meeting session with some councillors, he said anybody thinking they would be running for mayor any time soon should think again.

"I can not, and will not, sit on the sidelines any further while my reputation is being attacked," he said. "Today, I would like to call for this investigation to either end or to be handed over to the courts where witnesses will have to testify under oath about their statements."

He said for months, he and city council have been diligently trying to do the work of the city, but that the investigation has been an "elephant in the room" and an obstacle to progress.

"It has gone on far too long for the interests of council and the interests of the citizens of Ottawa to be well served," he said.