Tierney says sorry for 'mistake' involving election rival

Coun. Tim Tierney has apologized in court for making a "mistake" when he offered to make a charitable donation in exchange for his sole opponent dropping out of last fall's municipal campaign.

Corruption charges against the three-term councillor for Beacon Hill-Cyrville were withdrawn Wednesday, but Tierney will nevertheless forfeit two months' salary.

Last November, Ontario Provincial Police charged Tierney with corrupt practices under the Ontario Municipal Elections Act for trying to induce another candidate to drop out of the 2018 election.

Had a judge found Tierney guilty of corruption under the provincial law, the councillor would have been forced to vacate his position on council and barred from running in the next two elections.

He also could have been fined up to $25,000, and even imprisoned for up to six months. 

Kate Porter/CBC

Last-minute challenger

On July 27, 2018, the last day for candidates to register to run in last fall's municipal election, it appeared Tierney would be acclaimed.

I apologize for my mistake, for which I take full responsibility. - Coun. Tim Tierney

But minutes before nominations closed at 2 p.m., Michael Schurter, a real estate agent and Conservative Party staffer, arrived at the Elections Ottawa office to register as a candidate.

Then, according to OPP documents filed in court last year, Tierney called Schurter on his cell phone. Schurter put the call on speaker phone, and three people in the Elections Ottawa office alleged they heard the councillor offer to make a donation to a local food bank if Schurter withdrew his candidacy. 

Instead, Schurter went to police. Months later, the OPP anti-rackets division charged Tierney with "corrupt practices," or bribery.

Joanne Chianello/CBC

Charges withdrawn

In his apology on Wednesday, Tierney did not admit any guilt in relation to the corruption charges. Instead, he said that July 27 "was a difficult day."

Tierney said he had always planned to make a personal donation to a local food bank if he was acclaimed in last fall's election campaign.

"In the hectic last minutes before the close of nominations, I raised the subject of a charitable donation in connection with the election," Tierney said in court. "I apologize for my mistake, for which I take full responsibility."

He will also return two months' net salary — $10,567.52 —  to the city, money he said he trusts "will be put to positive use" by the community.

Laura Osman/CBC

In exchange for the apology and payment, the Crown has agreed to withdraw the charges.

In her statement, Claudette Breault told the court that the matter would have been a "lengthy prosecution" and that, if it had been successful, would have resulted in an expensive byelection.

Breault also pointed out that the allegations of bribery were made public during the campaign, and noted the people of Beacon Hill-Cyville still re-elected Tierney by a massive majority.

Laura Osman/CBC

No regrets: Schurter

Schurter was in court Wednesday to hear Tierney's apology and told reporters afterward that he's glad he took his complaint to police.

"Protecting democracy is a big thing," he said. "There were some things that happened that have no place within our political system, and today there was accountability for that. So that's a great thing."

Schurter would not comment on the deal that Tierney struck with the Crown, but said that he was pleased the councillor "admitted the truth, that his actions were wrong."

Asked if he had considered Tierney's option of making a donation to a food bank, he said that "anybody thinks about doing good deeds … but immediately you could tell there was something wrong with the situation."