Manitoba

Mayor playing 'incredibly juvenile game' over past Nygard employment to distract from budget: councillor

Mayor Brian Bowman says he was surprised to learn last week that Coun. Kevin Klein, who is chairman of the city's police board, worked as an executive for one of Peter Nygard’s companies. Nygard is accused of rape in a class-action lawsuit in the U.S.

Brian Bowman said he was surprised to learn Winnipeg police board chair Kevin Klein had worked for Nygard

Peter Nygard, seen here in Winnipeg in 2008 with Kevin Klein, is under investigation in Canada, the U.S. and the Bahamas for allegations he sexually assaulted a number of women and underage girls. (www4.nygard.com)

A Winnipeg city councillor is accusing Mayor Brian Bowman of trying to stamp out criticism of the city's upcoming preliminary budget by bringing up the councillor's past employment at one of Peter Nygard's companies.

"I realize he has been threatened by me since I arrived because I wouldn't follow his word," Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) told reporters Thursday, the day before the city's preliminary budget is set to be tabled.

"This is another example of the lengths that this mayor will go to if you dare challenge him and his leadership," Klein said.

"Do not fall for the incredibly juvenile game that is obviously being played."

Bowman said earlier Thursday that he was surprised to learn through news reports last week that Klein had previously worked as an executive for a company owned by Peter Nygard, who has been accused of rape in a class-action civil lawsuit filed in New York.

The revelation of Klein's past association with Nygard "was something that was news to me" and many others at city hall, Bowman said.

Klein, who was elected to city council in 2018 and is now the chair of the city's police board, said he worked for Nygard Biotech for a short period of time and left on his own terms.

He said Bowman's actions suggest the mayor is worried about the budget and trying to distract from it.

"It's clear that he is failing at his role," Klein said. "This is nothing more than an obvious attempt to discredit me before the budget is dropped. It's very disappointing, because he is behaving so childishly, in my opinion… I'm not afraid of him or these games. I have nothing to hide."

Mayor Brian Bowman says he found out that Coun. Kevin Klein at one point worked for Peter Nygard through media reports last week. (John Einarson/CBC)

In addition to the New York class-action suit, Nygard is facing legal action from  Los Angeles-based PR company Sitrick and Company.

In October 2018, a California arbitrator ordered Nygard to pay what he owes the company for work it did, plus interest and attorney fees. He didn't, so last July, Sitrick took the matter to the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench, which ordered Nygard to pay what works out to about $1.6 million.

Bowman said he reached out to Klein to ask whether there were any legal matters that would "distract" him from his duties as chairman of the police board.

"He's provided me with assurances that that's not the case and I take him at his word," he said. 

Last week, Nygard's spokesperson announced that the Canadian fashion mogul was stepping down from the company and would divest his ownership stake.

The announcement came just hours after FBI investigators raided Nygard's New York offices earlier in the day. An FBI spokesperson confirmed the search took place but would not provide any further details.

Ten women have filed the civil class-action lawsuit against Nygard, accusing the clothing manufacturer of raping them at his seaside mansion in the Bahamas and operating what they refer to as a "sex trafficking ring."

There are no criminal charges associated with those allegations, which have not been proven in court.

Police in the Bahamas are now investigating allegations made by four women who are part of the lawsuit, who told police Nygard sexually assaulted them when they were younger than 16, the age of consent in the Bahamas. 

The FBI would not confirm whether their raid was related to the allegations.

With files from Sean Kavanagh

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