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Winnipeg Coun. Kevin Klein says the recent sex-crime allegations against former employer Peter Nygard are "shocking," adding he has no current relationship with the fashion mogul.
Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) said Thursday he worked for Nygard on two separate occasions: four months in 2012, and two weeks in 2014.
Klein said while he visited the Bahamas twice during those times, he went with his wife, and did not stay at Nygard’s estate — a property at the centre of a U.S.-based class-action lawsuit accusing Nygard of sex trafficking, among other crimes.
The city councillor said he was involved with "the business side, not the personal side" of Nygard’s life.
"I think that everyone deserves due process, and I’m not going to be judge and jury. I’m going to wait and see how it’s tested in courts, and we’ll go from there," said Klein, who was elected in 2018, and is chairman of the Winnipeg Police Board.
He said his departure from Nygard's employ, on both occasions, was for "personal reasons."
"I don’t think it’s fair to talk about former employees or employers in any way shape or form," he said.
Klein left his position as chief executive officer and publisher of the Winnipeg Sun to take a VP position with Nygard International. Klein's online resumé, posted on the LinkedIn professional networking platform, makes no mention of his time working for Nygard.
While the Sun had published several articles under his leadership on the subject of the feud between Winnipeg-raised Nygard and U.S. billionaire hedge fund manager Louis Bacon, Klein said he had no input on assigning those stories.
Klein said he could not speak to whether there was any validity to claims held by Nygard’s spokespeople the recent accusations are part of the ongoing clash between the Bahamian property neighbours.
"I have no idea. I think again, as I said, this needs to be tested in court," Klein said. "And I want to, at this particular point in time, think about the people that are involved and, really, if it’s proven in court, wow."
Nygard, 78, received the key to the city from former Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz in 2008 — a symbolic title Mayor Brian Bowman has said he will take back, should the allegations against Nygard be proven in court.
"It saddens me, because it’s part of Winnipeg’s history. It’s a Winnipeg success story, in some ways, but as you hear the new things ‐ I think we’ve seen it happen with people in power positions now a lot, far too much." – Winnipeg Coun. Kevin Klein
"I think what the mayor said is fair — if he is convicted, then sure, you should acknowledge the wrong was done, and I would support him on changing the awarding of the key to the city," Klein said.
Klein said the allegations were especially distressing, considering Nygard’s influence in the city. Nygard has helmed his eponymous clothing company for 50 years, with corporate headquarters in Winnipeg, Toronto and New York.
"It saddens me, because it’s part of Winnipeg’s history," Klein said. "It’s a Winnipeg success story, in some ways, but as you hear the new things — I think we’ve seen it happen with people in power positions now a lot, far too much."
Klein said an important takeaway was to recognize the bravery of those speaking out.
"Whenever I hear this about people, I’m shocked," he said. "People are finding the strength to come forward. And I think that’s important and we should acknowledge that."
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.