Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Elmwood-E.K. councillor faces new charge

Steen spent night in jail for allegedly breaching court order

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Winnipeg city councilor Thomas Steen was recently forced to spend a night in jail after being accused of breaching a court order stemming from an earlier domestic assault arrest.

A courts spokeswoman confirmed to the Free Press Wednesday that Steen is facing a new charge of breaching no-contact order pertaining to the alleged victim.

Steen was arrested last Friday and was not released from custody until he appeared before a provincial magistrate Saturday morning.

He left council Wednesday without commenting on the incident.

 As the Free Press first reported, Steen was initially arrested in May following an incident at the Boston Pizza location on McPhillips Street. A woman known to Steen reported she was assaulted and contacted police, who authorized a charge following a brief investigation.

Sources told the Free Press the alleged attack involved a punch to the head. The victim was not seriously injured.

Steen, who represents the Elmwood-East Kildonan riding, was released on a promise to appear in court and his case is still pending. One of his conditions was to have no contact with the woman.

None of the allegations have been proven and Steen is presumed innocent.

Following his initial arrest, Steen informed Winnipeg city council he was taking an indefinite leave to deal with "a personal and private issue."

"Dear Council Colleagues: In response to allegations in recent media reports I would like to advise you that I will be taking some time to deal with a private personal matter," Steen wrote in an emailed statement to other members of council.

But he returned to work days later, saying he never intended it to be a long-term or formal absence.

 "I have not taken a leave of absence from my duties as Councillor and the various roles and functions that I perform as City Councillor and have returned to my duties," Steen stated in an email to news media

Steen, on the advice of his lawyer, said he would not comment on the pending allegations.

Mayor Sam Katz has previously declined to comment on Steen’s situation, adding only he remains innocent until proven guilty. Katz said there was nothing preventing Steen from attending council or committee meetings while under investigation.

Steen could lose his seat if convicted. Section 47 of the city's charter states a member of council forfeits his or her seat if convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment for five years or more; or if convicted of any offence that involves breach of trust by a public officer, municipal corruption or taking money to influence decisions or appointments.

 Steen is not allowed to attend any police board meetings. Regulations governing the new police board prohibit any police board member under police investigation from attending meetings or participating in any board business.

Steen is currently finishing his first term as councillor after being elected in October 2010. He is expected to run again this fall but will face a challenge from at least one candidate who has already declared.

Prior to entering the political arena, Steen enjoyed a successful professional hockey career that included 14 seasons with the Winnipeg Jets. His son, Alex, is now a star forward for the St. Louis Blues of the NHL.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca, mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

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