Mayor's affair with councillor in London, Ont., prompts his chief of staff to quit

An affair between Mayor Matt Brown of London, Ont., and a councillor continues to shake up city hall, with the mayor's senior aide resigning.

Mayor Matt Brown on leave of absence, Coun. Maureen Cassidy resigns as deputy mayor

After admitting to having an inappropriate personal relationship, London's Mayor Matt Brown and Deputy Mayor Maureen Cassidy are stepping away from their political duties to spend time with their families. (Matt Brown/Facebook)

An affair between London, Ont., Mayor Matt Brown and rookie Coun. Maureen Cassidy continues to shake up city hall, with the mayor's senior aide resigning Wednesday.

Corrine Rahman, Brown's chief of staff, resigned because she was angry with the mayor after learning about the affair, Coun. Tanya Park told CBC News.

News of the affair was confirmed at an emotional council meeting on Tuesday where Cassidy revealed she was resigning as deputy mayor because of the inappropriate personal relationship she had with Brown. Shortly after, the mayor issued his own statement apologizing for the relationship and the pain it has caused his wife and children.

He described the affair as a grave error in judgment. He said it took place for a "brief period of time" and "ended some time ago."

Cassidy will remain a councillor but she and Brown, who was elected mayor in 2014 after serving on council, have decided to take time away from city hall to spend time with their families. Before Cassidy was elected in 2014, the mother of three was a stay-at-home mom.

The mayor told CBC News he won't think about politics over the next few weeks, as he and his wife, Andrea, work on their marriage.

"Today, I'm thinking about my family," he said. "I'll turn my mind to my role as mayor when we're ready."

Toxic environment

Ward 6 Coun. Phil Squire said he worries about how council will move on, suggesting the fallout from Brown and Cassidy's affair will be a distraction.

"It's going to consume energy that could be devoted to matters that affect the city of London," he told CBC News.

The affair also supports stereotypes of political offices and sets London back in public opinion, Squire said.

"It sort of buys into that cynicism about politics, that politics is not a profession of integrity, and that bothers me," he said.

Former councillor Bud Polhill, who held office for 26 years, questioned how Brown can maintain his position as mayor.

"I would be seriously looking at whether or not I could continue the job, considering the people I have to work with, and one of them is one that was involved in the same situation," he said.

During his election campaign, Brown told voters he would clean up city hall and bring integrity to the job following the resignation of former mayor Joe Fontana, who was convicted of fraud charges.

Separating personal from professional

Several councillors maintain Brown's behaviour in his personal life does not affect his professional life.

"Obviously his personal judgment is something that he's admitted was inappropriate," Coun. Josh Morgan told CBC's Ontario Morning. "I don't see any evidence of that playing into his professional judgment in the years that he's been mayor."

He and Brown, as well as several other councillors, campaigned on restoring integrity to city hall. Morgan suggested the mayor's affair will be an issue council can overcome.

"Many of us ran on the promise of integrity, and although there's a setback here with the actions of a couple of individuals, the rest of council remains committed to that promise of being transparent, open and providing a lot of integrity to the city," Morgan said.

Acting mayor takes over

Ward 8 Coun. Paul Hubert will be acting mayor until Brown returns. He also ran on a promise of restoring integrity to city hall. 

"I think probably more than anything, Matt has let Matt down and let his family down," Hubert said. "I think in his comments to media, he recognizes that he's let Londoners down as well."

Brown expressed a similar sentiment in an interview with CBC Wednesday morning.

"It was a terrible error in judgment on my part, and I'm deeply sorry for the pain this has caused," he said.

"I make no excuses in my behaviour. I've committed to spending more time with my children and with my wife over the coming weeks. I'm going to take some time away and will return when we're ready."

Brown is scheduled to meet with the integrity commissioner on Thursday to discuss whether his behaviour may have breached his professional responsibilities as mayor.

With files from Gary Ennett, Lisa Xing, Amy Dodge