I received an official response this weekend from the City of Edmonton regarding my story on the Edmonton Combative Sport Commission’s improprieties I uncovered while working on a news piece on how Cody McKenzie’s WSOF 18 suspension was decided upon by the ECSC.
Before I respond to each faulty explanation in the letter, I think it’s important that I share some background and some of the previously unreported facts surrounding the city’s “investigation.”
The person in charge of investigating the case was the man who actually hired ECSC executive director Pat Reid. His name is David Aitken, and he is the community services branch manager with the City of Edmonton. Aitken has financial co-signing authority with the ECSC and approves all of Reid’s work trips to events like ABC conferences. Every allegation against Reid, including one that he arbitrarily raised commission fee rates without permission from the city and fraudulently submitted unapproved changes to the governing city bylaw to the city clerk without approval, has ended at Aitken’s desk.
For the latter he was provided with a covertly-recorded audio file of a conversation in which Reid admitted to the misdeed. No punishment was handed down because Aitken said it could not be determined if Reid was the person on the tape, even though the person had knowledge of the commission that only Reid would have. I’ve heard the tapes. It’s obviously Reid. I’ve confirmed as much with people who have and do work with him through the ECSC who also verified Reid is the person I interviewed on February 13.
I forwarded this screenshot of Reid’s Facebook page to the City Manager to suggest that maybe Aitken wasn’t the most unbiased person to investigate someone he is obviously very friendly with:
Aitken, who was never excused from the investigation, has been replying to my follow-up emails regarding the response I got from the City of Edmonton. In his last one, he informed me that unless I hand over my entire unedited recording of my call with Reid, the case is effectively closed.
The reason for his odd request was that I informed all parties involved from the city that Mr. Reid had made some pretty damaging accusations I hadn’t released about certain promotions and individuals that would likely preclude them from holding events in Edmonton. As an honours PR grad, I know how crisis management works. This was a play by Aitken to try to find out how bad Reid had screwed up. Rather than actually deal with the problem, he wanted to know what kind of a defense they needed to build to counter my claims and Reid’s reckless accusations.
In my original email to the City Manager’s office I offered to provide them with the applicable portions of my audio recording of my interview with Reid, as well as my email correspondence with ECSC chair Ron Goltz. Goltz denied all accusations against the ECSC vehemently until I informed him I had the complete audio recording of my conversation with Reid and that either the executive director was lying to him, or he was covering for the executive director.
Here’s the damning audio of Reid admitting he breached. I was told by Terilynn Lefebvre of the City Manager’s office on March 20 that the clip wasn’t required for the city’s investigation:
Here’s a transcription:
“We have a technical committee; it involves all of our referees, it involves all our judges. Eight people were pulled together, and it was unanimous. Some of them wanted him fined, but I didn’t think that was right.” Reid pointed out. “He’s going to miss a fight… probably here or there or somewhere.”
“The referee is watching the fight. He hears the guys talking to each other. He knows what’s going on. He’s the only one who’s in the ring besides the men [fighting] and when somebody intentionally drops like he did – just dropped his head right in his face – the referee called it instantly. It was an instant call,” Reid recalled. “He was automatically disqualified. It wasn’t like, ‘Hmm, I wonder what I should do here. Should I go talk to a technical committee?’ He made the call, and boom, it was done on the spot. The issue that followed from that was not so much [proving] intent, it was would there be a fine, would there be a suspension, and that’s where I went to the committee.”
Edmonton city bylaw 15638 Part II, section 7, clearly states:
“The Commission may create sub-committees to conduct research, provide review and commentary on existing or proposed Regulations, and otherwise assist the Commission to fulfill its mandate, but it may not delegate the Commission’s decision making power to a sub-committee.”
As such, Reid broke the law by pulling together the technical committee to vote on McKenzie’s suspension. Yet the city is still denying Reid did anything wrong.
In my original story I also pointed out how extremely xenophobic Reid was based on several comments he made about Americans being gun fanatics, greedy, and cheaters.
Here’s a Facebook post he made in December that was in my original post that illustrates his obvious distaste for Americans like McKenzie:
Let’s get into the letter. I will reply in as much detail as I can to each of the points made in the March 27 email written by Linda Cochrane that was sent out by her executive assistant Pat Zutz.
Thank you for your e-mail inquiry of March 17, 2015 to the City Manager regarding comments about combative sports in Edmonton.
The sport of mixed martial arts is a relatively new and growing sport in Alberta and Canada. There is no national governing body to provide standardized rules, regulations and operating procedures. In an attempt to create some regularity in this developing sport Edmonton passed two bylaws that outlines standards and approaches for licensing, operations and governance. These bylaws help address both safety and regulatory oversight issues. The City recognizes that with any sport decision made by officials there will always be differing view points, opinions and conjecture. As a safe guard, our bylaw provides for an appeal process, for the competitor, to request a formal change to an official’s decision.”
This makes it sound like Edmonton really listens to all fighter appeals. They don’t. The only appeals that the ECSC hears are licensing appeals, so if referee Kyle Cardinal missed the headbutt and refused to hear McInnes’ protests, the decision would have remained final. According to Reid, he stands behind his referees no matter what, which is why the bylaw is written the way it is.
Kurt Southern was fouled (with a glove grab that helped set up an armbar finish) by Jonatas Novaes at MFC 36. The infraction was obvious in the video replay, but was missed by Cardinal. Southern appealed and was informed by ECSC chair Ron Goltz in an overly legalese-heavy five-page email response that even though he was protesting a technical violation of the rules, the ECSC is bound by the governing city bylaw that only allows for licensing appeals.
In Goltz’s words:
Simply put, the ECSC (i.e. the Commission as a group of commission members), only has those appellate powers that are given to it in its bylaws. It is not a court of inherent jurisdiction. The ECSC can only hear appeals on matters that are set out in the bylaw,” Goltz wrote.
As such, both bylaws are clear – the ESCS can hear appeals of decisions of the Executive Director “respecting a licence or event permit”. The issue you raised on behalf of Mr. Southern is not a matter respecting a licence or event permit. You seek to overturn the result of a combative sports event on the basis of a technical violation of the rules. These types of appeals are not contemplated in our bylaws, and thus, are not appealable issues. As such, the decision in this fight remains final and conclusive,” Gotz concluded.
Technically McKenzie’s appeal wasn’t a licensing one either since his license actuall expired immediately following the event and prior to his punishment being handed down, and as such the ECSC didn’t actually have the power to suspend the one-day license that was no longer valid. I’m sure there will be another change to the bylaw in the near future to protect Reid from this loophole CombatSportLaw.com attorney Eric Magraken uncovered while reading through the appeal and bylaw for me for my research for this ongoing series of stories.
“In respect to a perceived conflict of interest, the matter was raised with the ECSC member in question. There was no finding of a loss of objectivity, judgment or ability to act in the best interest of the Commission.”
Basically commissioner Owen Dawkins was asked if he overlooked his friendly relationship with McKenzie’s opponent Andrew McInnes, who has trained under him at the University of Alberta where Dawkins is the head coach of the school’s wrestling team. McInnes has trained at U of A with Dawkins’ team and his good friend and head wrestling coach at Complete Martial Arts and Fitness, Roger Alves, is Dawkins’ assistant coach at U of A. Vang Ioannides, another commissioner who voted on McKenzie’s appeal, is assistant athletic director at the U of A and is Dawkins’ and Alves’ boss.
I pointed out this conflict to the commission, but instead of investigating my claims as per ECSC code of conduct policy, Goltz had Dawkins remove McInnes from his Facebook friends list an hour after I emailed him about the issue.
“Pursuant to Bylaw 15638 S.7, the ECSC may create sub-committees to conduct research, provide review and commentary on existing or proposed regulations and otherwise assist the Commission to fulfill its mandate. The ECSC Director use of the word committee refers to technical experts who provide advice, but to use your words there are no “secret” committees. It is my understanding that Mr. Ron Goltz, Chair, ECSC has already provided you with an overview of the bylaw(s) application and decision process that relate to issues raised.”
In an email exchange I had with commission chair Goltz, the Edmonton Worker’s Compensation Board lawyer informed me that in spite of Reid’s very clear comments that he went to the eight-person technical committee for a vote on McKenzie’s punishment and that they originally wanted him fined and suspended six months, the only people Reid consulted with were six ECSC officials at the event and that they had no input on the suspension. Reid refused to name the board members when I pressed him about it the day after the event because they didn’t wish to be identified.
“Under his powers of investigation, [Reid] consulted with other ECSC operations people at the event to get their perspective on the infraction. As noted in the ECSC decision, the individuals in this group were ECSC referees and judges at the event (Kyle Cardinal, Vern Gorman, John Braak, Sean Gerke, Marek Staszuk and Thomas Collins), all of which having COMMAND certification. The reason that the Executive Director consults with these individuals is to get other highly qualified technical perspectives on the matter, to see if one person saw something that someone else may have missed, and to allow group input to ensure that the correct decision is made. This practice is clearly authorized by the investigative powers granted to the Executive Director under section 28(h) of Bylaw 15638, and ensures that the best, most informed decision will be made. After consulting with these individuals, the Executive Director makes the final decision on what additional measures should be taken. In this case, that decision was a 90 day suspension. This final decision was the Executive Director’s to make and he did so in this case,” Goltz explained.
“Mr. Reid’s reference to other individuals who may be contacted by the Executive Director (coaches and trainers) is in relation to other wholly unrelated investigations by the Executive Director (e.g. with respect to matchmaking and whether or not an individual is ready to make a pro debut). Coaches and trainers were not consulted in this case with respect to additional measures for the infraction by Mr. McKenzie. As such, that comment by Mr. Reid has been taken out of context and is not accurate.
So Reid telling me the unnamed technical committee members are all more than qualified for their roles as they are mostly local combat sport trainers was taken out of context, according to Goltz. As was Reid’s mention that he deferred to the committee to decide McKenzie’s punishment. It’s no surprise Goltz’s specialty isn’t defense law.
“Finally, the personal views and opinions expressed by ECSC Director do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the City of Edmonton or the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission.”
It’s good to know that Edmonton isn’t necessarily xenophobic. Reid is, however. He’s also in charge of the safety and discipline of fighters from America, who he has an obvious distaste for. That’s a problem.
Thank you again for your inquiry.
It’s worth noting that Cochrane is listed on Reid’s resume as one of his personal references. Since the original story broke, I’ve been inundated with emails, calls, texts, and private and public social media messages from various concerned parties, including former ECSC commissioners, and one current ECSC commissioner. I’ve been sent documents, audio tapes, and proof of other cases of impropriety by Reid that were brought to the city’s attention, and were all swept under the rug by his pal David Aitken.
We’ll have more on this ongoing story of commission corruption as it develops.