Former Town of Pelham CAO Darren Ottaway had a court date in Cochrane on August 16 before Justice Michel Labelle, to answer to four charges related to incidents alleged to have occurred prior to 2019, when Ottaway was still working in Pelham. As in past court proceedings, Ottaway did not appear in person, but was represented by his defense counsel Paul Bragagnolo.
In July, Bragagnolo told Justice Labelle and the Cochrane court that his client had suffered a medical emergency, and was in the intensive care unit at an unspecified southern Ontario hospital. Bragagnolo said that Ottaway had suffered seizures, and may have a brain tumour.
Ottaway’s medical prognosis is still unknown, but Bragagnolo told the court on August 16 that he had been released from hospital “with life-threatening medical concerns.” Bragagnolo said that he had not had an opportunity to speak with Ottaway to receive instructions on how he wanted to proceed.
A judicial pretrial, or JPT, occurred on August 12. Ottaway had been facing two assault charges, a sexual interference charge, and a sexual assault charge. However, Crown Prosecutor Justin Reneaud withdrew one of the charges against Ottaway last week, telling the court that the single count of common assault against Ottaway’s wife, Paula, “has no reasonable prospect of conviction.”
The second assault charge against Ottaway, involving his step-son, Jay Jackson-Ottaway, is marked for trial in Cochrane on October 4, Justice Ralph Carr presiding.
Bragagnolo told the court that his wish was to return to Niagara for the sexual assault and sexual interference charges against Ottaway to be addressed, subject to his client's instructions. Bragagnolo had informed the court last month of his intent to have the charges brought back to the jurisdiction where they allegedly occurred, namely Pelham.
Justice Labelle ruled that the matter be adjourned until September 13, to set a date for trial or resolution.
Since his dismissal from Pelham, Ottaway has been employed as the Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Cochrane, a community of 5000 located south of Moosonee in northeastern Ontario. He was granted bail at his initial court appearance on January 24, and has been on a leave of absence from his Cochrane CAO role during the court case, with the Town initially appointing an acting CAO in his place.
The Cochrane Times-Post reports that Cochrane’s Town Council held a special meeting on August 11, at which interim-CAO Monika Malherbe was promoted to CAO.
Cochrane Mayor Denis Clement told the paper that Ottaway was “absent due to ill health. We have no anticipated date for his return to duties, however, we wish Mr. Ottaway a speedy return to full health. In a measure to ensure that the Town’s affairs are properly looked after and in compliance with our legal obligation, we have appointed Mrs. Monika Malherbe as CAO to oversee operations.”
Officially, Cochrane now has two CAOs, but Clement was quick to point out that one of them was on leave, without pay.
“We are not paying two CAOs. We are only paying one Chief Administrative Officer.”
Clement noted that Cochrane’s council had been discussing the CAO issue for some time. He did not respond to a request for comment from the Voice.