Witness at mayor's trial testifies about alleged deal
A witness at the influence peddling trial of Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien corroborated allegations that the mayor's rival was offered a federal appointment in exchange for dropping out of the 2006 mayoral race.
John Light, the assistant to Ottawa MP and Parliamentary Secretary Pierre Poilievre, testified Tuesday that an O'Brien aide told him about an offer made to Terry Kilrea during the municipal campaign.
Light, who worked on Kilrea's campaign, said the statements were made during a phone conversation between him and Greg Strong in August 2006.
Light testified that Strong called him to ask if he would consider being O'Brien's campaign manager. Light said when he told Strong that he was committed to Kilrea, Strong outlined the alleged deal.
"Keep it between you and me. Kilrea is going to be dropping out of the race. He's been offered something through the (Conservative) party," Light recalled Strong telling him.
"Dimitri Pantazopoulos is working on a federal appointment; Kilrea is going to accept."
However, Strong, who took the witness stand next, recounted a completely different conversation with Light.
Strong said the pair talked about meeting in person to discuss the possibility of Light becoming O'Brien's campaign manager, but no deal for Kilrea was ever mentioned.
Strong said although he heard rumours about Kilrea "shopping around" for an appointment, he only had discussions with O'Brien about Kilrea's financial trouble and the possibility of purchasing his website.
Light and Strong are the first witnesses to appear before the court in what the Crown is referring to as a 'Trilogy' of witnesses whose testimony about events that occurred in August 2006 may be considered hearsay.
Conservative fundraiser Thom Bennett will take the stand on Wednesday. It's alleged he's the one who put Strong and Light in touch.
After hearing from all three witnesses, Justice Douglas Cunningham will decide whether he will allow the testimony to be admissible as evidence in court.
Charges against the mayor stem from allegations he encouraged Kilrea to drop out of the 2006 mayoral race in exchange for a federal appointment on the National Parole Board.
However, in a videotaped interview with police in April 2007, O'Brien said he never offered his rival a job or appointment.
"I would go on, you know, the record very clearly. I never offered him (Kilrea) a job, period. I never promised him a job, period," O'Brien said in the taped interview.
"The real rookie mistake was me even talking to this guy (Kilrea) because I had the feeling at some point that there was a bit of baiting going on," he said.
Cunningham ruled Tuesday morning to allow video of the mayor's interview with police to be made public after it was played as evidence in court on Monday.
Observers say the interview with police may be the only time court will hear from the mayor during the course of his trial.
Nepean-Carleton MPP Lisa McLeod and David Penner, who is expected to tell the court about the federal appointment process, are both scheduled to take the stand on Wednesday.
The trial is being heard by a judge alone.