Thomas Steen has taken an indefinite leave from city council after he was charged with assault.
Steen, councillor for the Elmwood-East Kildonan ward, did not go to his office at city hall Wednesday but sent an email to all members of council around noon informing them of his decision.
"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," said Steen, who did not respond to several requests from the Free Press for an interview.
Steen turned himself in to police Tuesday evening and was promptly released on a promise to appear in court, a justice source said in a story detailed first in Wednesday's Free Press.
The pending court trial will pose a serious challenge to Steen if he decides to seek re-election. The question of Steen's innocence or guilt is not likely to be resolved by the Oct. 22 civic election.
'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' -- Coun. Thomas Steen
Steen is finishing his first term as councillor for Elmwood-East Kildonan 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.
Candidates for councillor can register on June 30 or later if they are planning to conduct a campaign. Nomination papers, which ensure a candidate's name appears on the ballot, can only be submitted during the week of Sept. 10-16.
The former Winnipeg Jets star allegedly got into a dispute May 1 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.
The arrest and charge prevent Steen from carrying out his duties on the Winnipeg Police Board.
One of two council representatives on the fledgling police board, Steen is prevented from attending meetings or participating in decision-making while under police investigation.
Winnipeg Police Board chairman Coun. Scott Fielding said if Steen is convicted, he would be forced to resign from the police board.
Fielding said he spoke to Steen late Tuesday afternoon, adding he was surprised to learn of his arrest and charge.
Mayor Sam Katz said he would not comment on Steen's situation, saying only he remains innocent until proven guilty.
Katz said there is nothing preventing Steen from attending council or committee meetings while under investigation.
However, Steen will need support from council if his leave is a lengthy one.
According to the City of Winnipeg Charter, a councillor forfeits their seat if they miss three consecutive regular meetings of council unless their absence is approved by a resolution at one of the missed meetings.
Steen could lose his seat if convicted.
Section 47 of the charter states a member of council forfeits their 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.
In addition, a member of council can lose their seat if other councillors pass a bylaw stating the conviction warrants removal from office.
Once removed from office, the charter states the former member of council cannot run in a byelection but can run again in the next general election.
Steen's release conditions include having no contact with the woman, who did not suffer serious injuries. His first court appearance is later this spring.
Prior to entering the political arena, Steen enjoyed a successful professional hockey career that included 14 seasons with the Jets. His son, Alex, is now a star forward for the St. Louis Blues of the NHL.