Regina mayoral hopeful wants to apologize to woman over comments she says were sexually suggestive
Woman says incident ‘not something that just goes away’
Regina city councillor Jerry Flegel says he wants to apologize after an allegation was posted online that he acted inappropriately toward a 23-year-old woman at a charity event in 2015.
The city councillor announced his bid for mayor on Thursday. At the announcement he addressed an anonymous allegation against him that was posted on the Victims Voices Instagram page.
The allegation was posted on July 23 to the Instagram account that was created to provide a platform for Regina people who say they have experienced sexual misconduct.
It claimed while at a 2015 charity event, Flegel acted in an unprofessional, inappropriate manner toward a woman.
CBC Saskatchewan spoke to the woman on a condition of anonymity. She said Flegel appeared on behalf of the city to greet attendees at a fall event held in Regina for a local charity. She was a volunteer with the organization.
She said she and her partner had greeted Flegel when he arrived, and he seemed pleasant enough and did his speech on behalf of the city. She said everything was great and Flegel, herself and her partner all mingled and chatted about sports.
'Demeanour completely changed'
"My partner got called away to something else and he left. I decided to stay. I didn't want to just walk away from the councilman. And as soon as my partner walked away, Mr. Flegel's demeanor completely changed," she said.
She said he slipped into a different persona and stepped toward her before asking about her relationship with her boyfriend at the time.
"And he goes 'Lucky guy with a young girl like you' and he gave me a wink and I got a like pit in my stomach like 'Oh God. Here we go,'" she said.
"I think a lot of women have experienced some moment where we're like 'Oh hey this has gone from innocent, friendly to inappropriate.'"
She said she tried to walk away when he "grabbed my wrist fairly hard and yanks me back towards him and he put his face right in my ear, looks at the side of my neck and he said 'If you ever want to try out a real older man you know where to find me.'"
She said it made her shudder and she couldn't stop thinking about it the rest of the night.
She said she told her partner and he tried to find Flegel or to make City Hall aware of his conduct. The woman said she didn't have the courage at the time because of his prominent position of power.
'I don't act like that'
On Thursday, Flegel said he does not act in the way that the woman described.
"I can tell you personally that I don't act like that. I don't do the types of things, I hold myself very high in how I handle myself in a personal level and a professional level. Whether it be council, whether it be real estate or whether it just be at the hockey rink or the ball diamond," he said.
On Friday, CBC Saskatchewan contacted Flegel again about the allegations after speaking to the woman.
"I have given this matter a great deal of thought over the past day and I first want to apologize to this person," he said in a statement.
"I am unable to recall the interaction she references, but if I had inadvertently made a comment that she found offensive then I am sorry. I have always tried to conduct my personal and professional life with the utmost courtesy and respect for everyone I meet. Again, I would more than welcome an opportunity to speak with this individual at her convenience to hear her concerns."
The woman said the incident still affects her to this day.
"It all kind of culminated a few months ago," the woman said. "I saw a billboard with him on it and I kind of had a little bit of a moment where I felt this full body shudder."
The woman said she then shared her experience on the Victim's Voices page and feels guilty she wasn't more proactive in 2015 when the incident happened.
"So it was an opportunity to potentially reach out to someone else that has been victimized by him or felt the same shame, guilt, confusion that I have," she said. "And I put it out there because I know that when someone like that has power and privilege it's usually not an isolated incident."
Plan for the future
The woman said when she saw his name come up for mayor about a month after making her post, she said she knew he didn't think it was a bad thing or a big deal. Then when he responded on Thursday at the press conference, she said it was dismissive and he didn't take it as a learning opportunity.
On Thursday's press conference, Flegel said he was comfortable with his past and doesn't want people to dwell on it because he has a plan for the future and wants to look forward.
Those comments didn't sit well with the woman.
"He just sort of said if you want to check my past, my past is the past of the past. Well it's not really in the past for me. I've had issues with it even just a few short months ago. So it's not something that just goes away," she said.
The woman said she hasn't been contacted by Flegel and that she hasn't heard anything from the people who run the Instagram account. She said someone who acts that way shouldn't have a prominent platform with no recourse. The woman said she simply hopes a similar situation doesn't happen to others.
"What I would like is for it to not happen to anyone else again," she said. "The more awareness, the less chance that these incidents will continue to happen and that that's ultimately my goal."
The woman said she would be open to communicating with Flegel.