Manitoba·CBC Investigates

Convicted criminals were once believed to be living at Rod Sage's home, documents show

Two men with criminal records that include convictions for weapons offences, drug possession and assault were believed to be living at Brandon CAO Rod Sage's home, according to documents obtained by CBC News.  

Christine Mitchell overdosed at home of City of Brandon CAO; death under investigation

Joey Werbowski, left, and John Wombdiska, right, were believed to live at the home of Brandon CAO Rod Sage, centre. Werbowski was court ordered to live at Sage's home as a condition of his release in May 2019. (Brandon Crime Stoppers, City of Brandon, Brandon Police Service)

Two men with criminal records that include convictions for weapons offences, drug possession and assault were believed to be living at Brandon CAO Rod Sage's home, according to documents obtained by CBC News.  

Joey John Werbowski, 40, gave Sage's address to a Brandon, Man., court in May. Werbowski was ordered to live there while out on bail. His criminal record includes convictions for drug possession, assault and possessing counterfeit money. 

Werbowski was facing numerous charges, including assault with a weapon, assault and uttering threats. He pleaded guilty to failing to comply with court conditions for not showing up for a previous court date.

It is not known if Werbowski actually lived at Sage's home. 

"Typically the client will tell us where he lives," said Werbowski's lawyer, Jason Stitt. "Basically I'll report that to the court. This is where my client says he lives. It's not really my position to question that or to go in any greater detail than that."

Christine Mitchell lived at Sage's home for nearly five years, before she died of a heroin overdose in July. (Christine Mitchell/Facebook)

Christine Mitchell, 30, overdosed on purple heroin in Sage's house in July. Her death remains under police investigation. 

Late last week, Sage announced he was stepping away from his position on the Brandon Police Board, after Manitoba's attorney general had asked the RCMP to review Mitchell's death and the subsequent Brandon police investigation.

Brandon city council placed Sage on paid administrative leave Tuesday following a special meeting. 

Officer safety warning involving Sage's home 

In December 2018, the Brandon Police Service issued an officer safety warning to its members about John Rodney Wombdiska, 38.

In the warning, police listed Sage's single detached home as one of two addresses for Wombdiska. The other was on McDiarmid Drive, according to the internal police bulletin obtained by CBC News. 

Police released this internal warning to officers in December 2018. It listed two addresses for Wombdiska, including Sage's home. (Submitted)

Court records show a list of Wombdiska's criminal convictions runs five pages long and includes uttering threats, assault and weapon possession, as well as 30 prior convictions for failing to comply with court orders.

It is not known if or when Wombdiska lived at Sage's home, or why police believe he did.

Sage did not respond to requests for comment on Wombdiska and Werbowski.

Possible charges if address not accurate

A spokesperson for Manitoba's justice department says a person who is released on bail is "obligated to provide to the court accurate information about where they will be living in situations where a reside condition is required." 

"If they don't live at the identified location, they could be found in breach and face additional charges," wrote the spokesperson in an email. 

Winnipeg defence lawyer Scott Newman says there is a certain degree of trust when an accused gives an address to be released on bail (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Winnipeg defence lawyer Scott Newman says the system relies on trust to a certain extent to ensure the addresses provided are correct.

"I'd say that's a very rare circumstance that somebody is not living at the address they say that they're going to live at," Newman said. "Why would somebody lie about something like that, where they're setting themselves up to be arrested? It doesn't make a lot of sense."

Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest previously told CBC News he had no concerns about Sage's ability to do his job. 

"He has not done anything wrong … this was really a matter in his private life," Chrest said in September.

Last Wednesday, Mayor Chrest sent an internal memo, obtained by CBC News, which said "Rod had disclosed this situation before being selected as city manager. At no time has it impacted the performance of his duties." 

Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest says Sage was trying to help someone who was suffering with addictions. (Warren Kay/CBC)

On Tuesday, Chrest said "in light of the RCMP independent review of the investigation, our council has determined that the administrative leave was in the best interest of all parties. The media release stands on its own and as was stated we will not make further comments."

Sage will be on leave for a period of six weeks or "possibly less if matters are resolved prior to then," the City of Brandon's statement said. 

Sage previously told CBC News that he provided Mitchell, who had a substance use disorder, free room and board in his house for five years, plus money for expenses like cigarettes and toiletries. He said she had no income of her own. 

"Unfortunately, you know, there would be times when the money perhaps wasn't used for the intent of what it was given to her," said Sage. 

"Christine was an amazing individual and had amazing potential for life, and I wanted to do whatever I could to try to help her out," Sage told CBC News in a phone interview in September.

Sage said he covered Mitchell's legal bills and drove her to an addictions facility in Saskatchewan that her family had paid for.

The Brandon Police Association — the union that represents rank and file officers — said it is unable to offer a new comment because the RCMP is reviewing the file. 

"The BPA has taken concerns to the police service management, as well as the mayor, as I stated before," wrote Darren Creighton, president of the police association.

"Due to the request from the attorney general for a review to be conducted by the RCMP, all further comments regarding this matter will come from the purview of the RCMP," wrote Brandon police Sgt. Kirby Sararas.

Two men with criminal records that include convictions for weapons offences, drug possession and assault were believed to be living at Brandon CAO Rod Sage's home, according to documents obtained by CBC News. 2:21

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About the Author

Caroline Barghout

Investigative Reporter, CBC Manitoba I-Team

Caroline began her career co-hosting an internet radio talk show in Toronto and then worked at various stations in Oshawa, Sudbury and Toronto before landing in Winnipeg in 2007. Since joining CBC Manitoba as a reporter in 2013, she has won an award for her work on crowded jails and her investigation into Tina Fontaine's death led to changes in the child welfare system. Email: caroline.barghout@cbc.ca

With files from Riley Laychuk