Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Er, on second thought

Mayor dropped call for police probe
O'Brien didn't instigate OPP investigation into Kilrea allegations, despite public claim

Gary Dimmock
The Ottawa Citizen

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

On Jan. 13, a day after Mayor Larry O'Brien learned he had been accused of offering to cover a rival's expenses if the rival withdrew from last year's mayoral race, he called the police and asked for a full investigation to clear his name. But the Citizen has learned that the next day, when told he needed to file a formal complaint, he declined to do so.

The investigation was over before it began.

The current police probe was only launched after the Citizen reported the allegations, two months later.

But last month, the mayor told CFRA radio that the current investigation was at his request.

In an interview with Citizen columnist and radio host Mark Sutcliffe, Mr. O'Brien claimed responsibility for instigating the probe: "As soon as I became aware of this last January, I immediately went to our police chief and I immediately went to the OPP, months and months before this became public, and asked for a full investigation.

"That investigation commenced and I think the investigation covers an awful lot more issues than simply what Larry O'Brien has been doing. So I'm very comfortable with the way this is unfolding ... We have been completely, 100-per-cent co-operative (with the police) in every way, shape or form, providing them every ounce of information needed and I am quite comfortable that as this thing rolls out over the next four or five weeks and comes to a conclusion that the City of Ottawa will be very comfortable."

The mayor expressed confidence in the OPP and said: "I ... like the way they're moving on this. They're going to be very, very, very thorough, and for that I'm appreciative."

After telling Mr. Sutcliffe he did not intend to follow through on a threat to sue the Citizen over the story, the mayor concluded: "I'll just be happy when this is over and we can all go forward and live happily ever after."

On Jan. 12, the mayor learned in an interview with the Citizen that one of his rivals in the last election, Terry Kilrea, had alleged that Mr. O'Brien had offered him $30,000 to cover his campaign expenses and help him get a federal appointment if he withdrew from the race.

At the request and expense of the Citizen, Mr. Kilrea swore to his allegations in an affidavit. He also passed a polygraph test, again at the expense of the Citizen, about the contents of the affidavit. Mr. Kilrea's allegations have not been proven in court and Mr. O'Brien has not been charged with any crime.

Mr. O'Brien asked then-Ottawa police chief Vince Bevan to investigate Mr. Kilrea's allegations. The Ottawa police turned the file over to the Ontario Provincial Police to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.

For the OPP to launch an investigation, Mr. O'Brien would need to file a formal complaint.

On Jan. 14, he declined to do so.

On Feb. 10, the Citizen reported on the allegations and the existence of the affidavit. The current OPP investigation was launched on March 27 after the Ottawa and District Labour Council lodged a complaint based on the affidavit by Mr. Kilrea.

The labour council did not obtain the affidavit from the Citizen.

In the Jan. 12 interview, Mr. O'Brien denied making the offer, but acknowledged two meetings with Mr. Kilrea took place. He also acknowledged that he spoke to his lawyer after talking to Mr. Kilrea about campaign expenses.

Mr. Kilrea, a court-enforcement officer, says while he was tempted by the alleged offer, he turned it down 25 days later at a meeting with Mr. O'Brien in the parking lot behind a Tim Hortons.

The Kilrea affidavit details two meetings with Mr. O'Brien. Mr. Kilrea swears in the affidavit that the mayor not only offered to cover his campaign expenses up to $30,000, but also alleges that, citing help of a top federal Tory, he explored the idea of getting Mr. Kilrea an appointment to the National Parole Board.

John Reynolds, the co-chair of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's 2006 campaign, has firmly denied any link to the alleged offer.

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