Mayor Larry O’Brien’s trial for influence peddling and negotiating a public appointment could have implications beyond the city or even the country, according to an associate professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law.
“This has the real potential to damage not only Ottawa’s reputation as a squeaky-clean, boring city, but also Canada’s international reputation as a model for clean politics and a model for strong conflict of interest and anti-corruption measures,” said Adam Dodek, whose areas of research include public law, the legal profession and legal ethics.
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O’Brien’s trial begins Monday at the downtown courthouse.
Ontario Provincial Police charged him in December 2007 after a nine-month investigation. The charges stem from allegations from former mayoral candidate Terry Kilrea that O’Brien offered to help get him appointed to the National Parole Board, if Kilrea withdrew from the race.
O’Brien, who started an unpaid leave of absence from city hall on Friday, has always maintained his innocence.
“I built my business on honesty and hard work and I entered politics the same way,” O'Brien said. “I am relieved this will finally be before the courts and I look forward to coming back to prepare for the fall agenda.”
O’Brien has had a whirlwind 28 months as mayor that included the cancellation and re-launching of the city’s rapid transit plan, a 52-day transit strike, divisive budget debates, the most significant restructuring of the city bureaucracy since amalgamation and most recently, a plan to redevelop Lansdowne Park.
A guilty verdict would have profound implications for O’Brien, Ottawa and the rest of the country, said Dodek.
“I’m not sure the last time a sitting mayor of a major city was convicted of any sort of serious criminal offence. I think you’d have to go back a while,” said Dodek. “It could be significant stain on Ottawa’s reputation and on Canada’s reputation.”
O’Brien’s case has already garnered international attention. The U.K.-based global affairs magazine, The Economist, mentioned O’Brien’s case in story about Canada’s seeming indifference to allegations of corruption and white-collar crime.