September 26, 2018

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Wyatt at city hall to attend four-minute committee meeting

Coun. Russ Wyatt was back at city hall Wednesday for the first time since he was charged with sexual assault earlier this month. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press Files)</p></p>

Coun. Russ Wyatt was back at city hall Wednesday for the first time since he was charged with sexual assault earlier this month. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press Files)

Coun. Russ Wyatt resurfaced at city hall Wednesday, 15 days after disappearing from the public eye after being charged with the sexual assault of a Winnipeg woman.

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

Wyatt, 48, attended a special meeting of the East Kildonan-Transcona community committee. Notice of the meeting was posted online only four hours before it started. The meeting was scheduled from 2-4 p.m., but was adjourned after four minutes.

“It looks pretty straightforward Mr. Chairman. I’ll move approval,” Wyatt said, in his only comments at the meeting.

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Coun. Russ Wyatt resurfaced at city hall Wednesday, 15 days after disappearing from the public eye after being charged with the sexual assault of a Winnipeg woman.

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

Wyatt, 48, attended a special meeting of the East Kildonan-Transcona community committee. Notice of the meeting was posted online only four hours before it started. The meeting was scheduled from 2-4 p.m., but was adjourned after four minutes.

"It looks pretty straightforward Mr. Chairman. I’ll move approval," Wyatt said, in his only comments at the meeting.

A plan approval and a per capita grant were quickly passed by Wyatt, Coun. Jason Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan) and Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan).

Wyatt quickly stood up and left the room.

Wyatt, who has represented Transcona on council since 2002, did not return a request for comment. His attendance seems to indicate he does not plan to step down from council in light of the accusation.

He is alleged to have attacked a woman in a Winnipeg home on Jan. 13. The woman is not his wife, nor is she a city employee.

Hours after receiving lab results connected to evidence obtained in the investigation, police arrested Wyatt on July 10, describing the offence as a "serious sexual assault," a term they use to refer to attacks consistent with rape.

He has been ordered not to contact his alleged victim or be within 200 metres of her or places she's known to frequent.

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

On July 19, at the first city council meeting since his arrest, Wyatt was granted an approved leave of absence for a "doctor’s appointment."

At that meeting, Coun. Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre) moved a motion to amend the city charter so an automatic paid leave of absence is triggered whenever a councillor is charged with a violent criminal offence.

On Thursday, Gilroy said she was "a little surprised" when told by the Free Press Wyatt had been at work.

"I wish he would take a leave of absence. That’s where my motion is going. We have a flaw in our policy and we need to deal with it. This is about ensuring people feel safe in their work environment," she said.

"We have a scenario here where someone has been charged with a serious crime and we don’t have a mechanism to deal with that. We’re leaving it up to the women in the room to say, ‘I don’t feel comfortable at this meeting.’ And I don’t think that’s fair."

Wyatt has been in and out of the headlines in the first half of 2018. Soon after being questioned about the alleged attack by sex crimes investigators in January, Wyatt disappeared from city hall.

It was later revealed he requested an extended leave of absence on Jan. 19, for what city officials said was a personal family matter. Even his council colleagues claimed to not know where he was.

In March, the Free Press revealed he was in rehab, seeking treatment for alcoholism and drug abuse.

He returned to city hall in May, noticeably thinner and saying he’d found a new lease on life.

In June, at the Winnipeg Pride festival, he came out as bisexual, saying he’d been living a double life.

After initially announcing he would not seek re-election, Wyatt backpedalled, saying his political future remained undecided. At the time of his arrest he was publicly mulling a bid for mayor.

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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