Councillor charged with sexual assault could leave city hall with large severance

Russ Wyatt was arrested and charged on Tuesday with serious sexual assault, but it looks like a potential conviction wouldn’t affect a hefty pay-out from city hall if he leaves council.

Winnipeg implemented the severance transition allowance in 2011, which gives councillors a payment for 3 weeks of every year served after they leave office or are defeated at the polls.

READ MORE: Winnipeg city councillor Russ Wyatt charged with sexual assault, denies allegations

In Wyatt’s case, that payment would be close to $45,000 after 16 years in his seat, which results in the maximum 6 months of salary he is eligible for.

If the Transcona councillor simply does not run for re-election in October and steps away from politics, Mayor Brian Bowman said he doesn’t see why he wouldn’t get the money. But that doesn’t mean the mayor agrees with it.

“My expectation is will be available, unfortunately,” Bowman said.

In December 2014, Bowman fought to eliminate the payments, but his proposal was defeated in council.

Wyatt voted to eliminate the pay-out.

RELATED: Questions surrounding Russ Wyatt’s political career after sexual assault charges

Councillors in favour of the allowance argue that it is hard for politicians to find work after serving in office. They are also not eligible for employment insurance .

The average Manitoban gets an EI payment of about $28,000 for one year.

“I think political severance is offensive to taxpayers,” Bowman said.

“In any other job in Winnipeg if you decide to quit you don’t get tens of thousands of dollars…but ultimately, council is supreme.”

The sexual assault allegations against Russ Wyatt have not been proven in court. He told Global News on Wednesday that he is “innocent of any wrong-doing”.

READ MORE: Manitoba politicians who quit get recently enhanced severance pay

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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