November 19, 2018

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Russ Wyatt returns to city hall despite sex-assault charge

Councillor has been recovering from drug, alcohol addictions

Coun. Russ Wyatt made what's believed to be a rare appearance at city hall Thursday morning to attend a special meeting of a community committee meeting.

It was Wyatt’s second appearance at a council committee meeting since he was charged July 10 with sexual assault for the alleged rape of a woman in January.

The Transcona councillor is scheduled to make his first court appearance Aug. 28.

Wyatt, 48, joined councillors Jeff Browaty and Jason Schreyer for a special meeting of the East Kildonan-Transcona community committee for an administrative report on a 355-unit, four-building multi-family development on a church-owned property on Panet Road in East Kildonan.

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Coun. Russ Wyatt made what's believed to be a rare appearance at city hall Thursday morning to attend a special meeting of a community committee meeting.

It was Wyatt’s second appearance at a council committee meeting since he was charged July 10 with sexual assault for the alleged rape of a woman in January.

The Transcona councillor is scheduled to make his first court appearance Aug. 28.

Wyatt, 48, joined councillors Jeff Browaty and Jason Schreyer for a special meeting of the East Kildonan-Transcona community committee for an administrative report on a 355-unit, four-building multi-family development on a church-owned property on Panet Road in East Kildonan.

Coun. Russ Wyatt offered little comment to the media and would not talk about his charges or pending court appearance. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Coun. Russ Wyatt offered little comment to the media and would not talk about his charges or pending court appearance. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Wyatt offered little comment to the media on his way into the meeting other than to say he was there to attend the meeting. He would not comment on his charges or pending court appearance.

Wyatt also said he had yet to decide if he’ll run for re-election in October.

Following the 30-minute meeting, Wyatt said his political future would be based on what's best for his recovery from his recently admitted addiction to drugs and alcohol.

"Whatever I decide to do, whether I’m running or not, will be based on my recovery," Wyatt said. "My recovery comes first. If running again fits into my recovery then that’s something I would consider but if it doesn’t then that’s it."

Wyatt is accused of attacking a woman in a Winnipeg home on January 13. She is not his wife, nor is she a city employee. Winnipeg Police said Wyatt and his alleged victim knew each other.

Coun. Russ Wyatt joined councillors Jeff Browaty and Jason Schreyer for a special meeting of the East Kildonan-Transcona community committee today at city hall. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Coun. Russ Wyatt joined councillors Jeff Browaty and Jason Schreyer for a special meeting of the East Kildonan-Transcona community committee today at city hall. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

If convicted, Wyatt could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

After the alleged sexual assault, Wyatt took a mysterious leave of absence from city hall on Jan. 19 for what city officials said was a personal family matter. Wyatt broke his silence in mid-March in an exclusive letter to the Free Press where he disclosed he was seeking treatment at the Aurora Recovery Centre north of Gimli for alcohol and substance "disorders," which he said he needed to regain control of his life for his family's sake. He made no reference to the sexual assault allegation, which was being investigated by Winnipeg police at that time.

Wyatt returned to council in late May, noticeably thinner, and credited his treatment for changing his life but wouldn't talk about what prompted him to seek treatment.

Wyatt surprised many people in June when, while attending the Pride parade, he disclosed he was bi-sexual and admitted to leading a secret double-life.

Later at the June council meeting, Wyatt announced he would not seek re-election but backpedalled hours later in a series of text messages to the Free Press, saying his political future remained undecided. At the time of his arrest he was publicly mulling a bid for mayor.

Coun. Russ Wyatt has mostly been MIA since being charged July 13 with sexual assault. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press Files)</p></p>

Coun. Russ Wyatt has mostly been MIA since being charged July 13 with sexual assault. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press Files)

Six individuals have registered their candidacy to contest the Transcona ward for the Oct. 24 civic election.

Candidates have until the end of business day on Sept. 18 to file their nomination papers, which would place their names on the ballot, but they cannot campaign until they register.

Wyatt’s been seldom seen at city hall. His previous attendance at a committee meeting was July 26, also for a special meeting of the community committee on another planning issue.

While Wyatt told reporters following the Thursday meeting that he continues to fulfill his duties as councillor, those at city hall said he occasionally drops by once or twice a week.

"I continue to perform my duties. I’ve been here all summer doing my duties, returning phone calls to constituents to the best of my ability," Wyatt said. "I’m continuing to do my duties as the city councillor for Transcona as best I can."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @aldosantin

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

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History

Updated on Thursday, August 16, 2018 at 12:17 PM CDT: adds new photo

12:50 PM: Corrects date of arrest.

3:50 PM: write-thru

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