Pat Reid’s contentious reign as executive director of the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission nearly ended before it began. It would have, had it not been for his friends in high places at city hall.
Just prior to Reid’s May 2009 interview with the City of Edmonton-appointed hiring committee, one commission member stumbled upon various online stories about two Pat Reids from Ontario — one Mr. and one Mrs.
When asked if the applicant they were about to interview was a male or a female, Community Standards Branch Manager David Aitken who was overseeing the interviews pretended he didn’t know.
“I have no idea,” Aitken replied. “I’ve never met any of the applicants.”
The truth is he had met the Pat Reid who would walk through the conference room door in a few minutes and flash his ’91 Men’s World Junior Championship ring while recalling in detail how he helped guide the Canadian team to victory as its GM.
Had Aitken told the truth it was inevitable the committee members would have found the most infamous story about Reid being the mastermind behind an illegal tax shelter scheme involving the National Arts Centre and then-Ottawa Senators captain Alexei Yashin.
The $1 million deal was killed after the first of five yearly $200,000 payments was made and the deal was deemed to be illegal. What made it unlawful was the additional backroom side deal that paid Yashin’s parents $85,000 for every $200,000 he donated for potential translation services for the Russian performers the NAC would be bringing in more of as part of the arrangement. It also kicked back $15,000 to Pat Reid for brokering the “non-profit” donation and relationship between the NAC and Yashin.
Federal investigators who were tasked with deciding on the legality of the deal employed the aid of several government agencies, including the auditor general’s office, Heritage Canada, and the federal ethics department — each of whom agreed that the deal went against Revenue Canada tax shelter laws.
According to the resume that Aitken provided hiring committee members and Commissioners Brian Caines, April Bedard, and Bill MacCrae with a few minutes prior to the start of the interviews, the Pat Reid they were about to meet was the “Director/Vice-President” of Corel Corporation from December 1994 to April 1999. The Yashin/NAC incident took place in 1998, so they likely wouldn’t have deduced it was the same person even if they had linked the two together.
Aitken lied about knowing him to cover the fact that he was breaching the city’s favourtism policy from its code of conduct by even interviewing Reid. The two had met and become friends with while working on the city’s 2015 University Games bid.
Here’s what the City of Edmonton’s employee code of conduct says about the matter:
We will remove ourselves from situations where there is a real or perceived risk of favouritism.
Reid’s contract with the city had just been prematurely terminated in May when the bid failed earlier that month and he was desperate for a job, so city brass decided to set him up with one as a consolation prize for his service.
Losing Reid back to Ottawa would be a major blow to the city’s future games bid plans, and with World’s Fair, Commonwealth Games, and University Games Bids on the horizon, they couldn’t afford to see him go. Reid had supplied the bid team with invaluable reference documents he had collected from past games bids he worked on. He also used his influence at Sport Canada (the federal government’s amateur sport funding office he worked out of for 17 years) to help prevent an anticipated premature moratorium for Edmonton’s bid that the agency was expected to announce in December 2008.
Had the bid been successful, Reid’s contract with the city would have been extended to late 2015, and his role would have changed to strategic advisor or director general.
Faced with the reality that an asset to Edmonton’s future as a world leading games host city was in jeopardy, a plan was hatched to hook Reid up with a plum gig that would keep him in “The City of Champions” for the unforeseeable future.
Aitken actually vetoed the hiring committee’s 3-1 vote (his was the one vote for) against hiring Reid, even though those against had a reasonable reason for rejecting his application. The group argued that Reid’s utter lack of combat sport experience and spotty job history made him a less than ideal candidate for the technically demanding role.
The committee’s first choice of applicants was Orest Zmyndak, who was actually contracted to the role for another two years when Aitken inexplicably posted the job ad. Contrary to this March 2, 2009 Community Services Committee report where the first mention of hiring a new executive director was curiously made, Aitken never bothered to tell the commission members the role was even up for grabs, which was strange since the ED’s salary was paid out of the then-self-funded commission’s independent accounts.
A commission member actually stumbled upon the ad and informed the other commission members and Zmyndak about it.
Typically positions like these with a high salary and specific unique job requirement skill set were posted in the Edmonton Sun and the Edmonton Journal. Strangely, this one never made it further than the job section of the city’s website.
Aitken again interfered in the decision-making process to ensure the candidate his bosses were vetting (City Manager Al Maurer, Director of Intergovernmental and External Affairs Candice Stasynec, and Community Services Manager Linda Cochrane were all references on Reid’s application) got the job. He informed the hiring committee that unfortunately Zmyndak, whose application Aitken chose himself to put through to the final interview, did not have the necessary university degree the role required.
It didn’t matter that Zmyndak was a commissioner for six years with the ECSC before accepting back-to-back three-year appointments to his current executive director role.
The committee members argued that something suspicious was going on and that Aitken seemed to know a little too much about Reid, who he was pushing hard for the group to hire. They also questioned why Zmyndak’s application made it through to the final four if Aitken knew he was never going to hire him for the job.
Aitken had no answers for them.
He didn’t have any answers either for the same trio of commission members when they paid him an after-hours visit at his office a week after the interviews to share their concerns that Reid was not qualified to run their world renowned commission. They pleaded with him to at least let them look at the other resumes he received to ensure they were getting the best candidate.
In Aitken’s narrow mind Reid’s degrees in kinesiology and physical education trumped more than a decade of combat sport regulation experience Zmyndak had, at least for the $85K per-year (plus benefits and pension) role they were setting Reid up with.
When the dust cleared Zmyndak was kept on as the commission’s technical director and would keep his $1500 per-month, $400 per-event rate of pay, perceivably until his original contract expired in 2011. The idea was that Zmyndak would be able to fill in the many technical knowledge gaps Reid had and that Reid would be more of an event planner. So instead of one person doing the job for around $30K per-year, the ECSC now had two people doing the same job for $125K per-year.
What’s surprising is that nobody from the city batted an eye when the commission went from being moderately profitable and completely self-sustaining for decades to being in a constant cost recovery mode year after year under Reid. Between 2009 and 2014 the number of annual boxing and MMA events in the city dropped by 75 percent, while the cost of running the commission has quadrupled.
I’m sure Aitken will argue that he followed every rule and plan to hire Reid, but he knows he didn’t. A Freedom of Information Policy (FOIP) inquiry can prove as much if anyone from the city bothers to investigate this any further, which considering the financial stress the ECSC is putting on the city, one would hope they would.
One reason why Aitken will likely never admit to any wrongdoing is that Zmyndak is suing the city. The lawsuit is related to his wrongful termination. As such, Zmyndak refused to comment on Reid or his involvement with the ECSC.
One question that needs to be answered by someone is why Aitken never bothered to fact-check Reid’s resume for accuracy. He didn’t. Otherwise he would have found all of the inconsistencies I found, which would have quashed the plan before it could be put into action.
For one, Reid only worked for Corel for two years, not five as he claimed on his resume. He was the company’s director of of special events, not the “VP/Director” of the entire company. I confirmed this with Corel. Reid’s ECSC bio also corroborates this little white lie, which was likely meant to act as a red herring to throw potential employers off the trail of his back lot Ottawa dealings with Yashin.
Also, contrary to his resume and ECSC bio, Reid was also never the VP of the CAHA, nor was he ever the GM of any of the men’s or women’s world junior teams.
I talked to Reid’s old boss, former CAHA President Murray Costello who told me Reid technically never actually had an official title since he was never really one of his employees. He was on loan from Sport Canada and his appointment actually ended a month before the men’s world junior team won gold in 1991.
“We called him the ‘team leader’ because he led a team of office staff who booked flights, buses, hotels and sponsorships and things like that for the team,” Costello explained to me during a recent phone call. “No, he was never the GM. He had zero say in how the teams were run.”
Costello, who was easy to find since he’s the only “M COSTELLO” in the Ottawa phone book, says the ’91 championship ring Reid wears daily was simply gifted to him as a kind gesture by the CAHA after he was reassigned by Sport Canada.
If I was able to easily verify two lies on Reid’s resume, it’s obvious that Aitken, who is an HR-certified hiring manager with the city, didn’t even bother to look. Had HR been involved in the hiring process, the jig would have been up before it started.
Let’s hope current Edmonton City Manager Simon Farbrother actually investigates this situation, unlike he did Reid’s wrongdoing in the Cody McKenzie suspension case. I sent several city reps (including Farbrother) the audio clip of Reid admitting he broke a city bylaw to suspend McKenzie to use for their investigation, which I was told was being thoroughly done and would be taken very seriously.
The unique trackable link to the damning clip I sent still has not been clicked by anyone. What a crack team of investigators they must have in the city’s administrative offices.
Only after I informed the group included in the email chain that I had further audio of Reid badmouthing several mixed martial arts industry members, including well-known referees, UFC executives, and fellow Canadian commissions and that I would be approaching the subjects of the quotes for comment did Aitken pretend to take my concerns seriously. He told me that if (and only if) I submitted my entire recording of my conversation with Reid to him would he investigate further.
Now that I knew how he has protected Reid from over a dozen damning accusations (that I’m sure the city and city council have never been made aware of given the seriousness of the claims and the lack of punishment Reid received) and I know how he interfered with the hiring process, I feel that he only wanted the tape so he could formulate a crisis management plan for his friend.
He’s playing Doug Stamper to Reid’s Frank Underwood. We’ll see how that turns out for them.
When I informed Aitken that I would not be dealing with him any longer as I knew he had a conflict of interest in the case and I was done playing his shell game, I got an email from Don Belanger who claimed to be Reid’s immediate supervisor, requesting I send him the tape so he could investigate my claims. I found this curious since the related bylaw (and an email Aitken sent me earlier in the week) indicated that Farbrother is actually Reid’s boss. The other thing I couldn’t figure out since the McKenzie case was closed what exactly they were planning on investigating.
I asked Belanger and he didn’t have an answer to my question besides: “There are a number of allegations stemming from your February 13, 2015 recorded interview with Mr. Reid. As a result we need to review the full audio recording of that interview in its entirety.”
Still, I thought I’d try to negotiate with Belanger to see if there was a glimmer of hope he was not another corrupt city official and that he might take my claims seriously.
As per the city’s FOIP policy, any emails or documents created on a city-owned computer or network or with city email accounts can be requested at any time. Coincidentally Reid is the ECSC FOIP official, which means the chances of me getting the documents that would prove most of my claims were slim to none. I told Belanger that if he would handle my ECSC FOIP request I would gladly hand over my tapes.
Clueless as to how the department he claimed he was in charge of is run, he replied with instructions on how I can apply to the appropriate department with my FOIP request and informed me that he had done his part now I needed to do mine by handing over the tapes. I informed him that the reason I was asking him to look after my request was because Reid was the FOIP officer for the ECSC and I was doubtful he would fulfil my request for all emails between him and Aitken sent between February 1, 2015 and April 2, 2015 containing the key words “Mike Russell” and “Cody McKenzie.”
Strangely, I’ve never heard back from Belanger or anyone from the city since.
According to Linkedin, Belanger, who claimed he was the “acting director of community relations” for the Community Standards Branch, is actually Capital Clean Up manager with the city. According to the city’s website Aitken is actually his boss. I guess you can’t blame a guy for trying.
Reid has already written explanatory emails to ECSC officials, the UFC, and the ABC explaining my claims against him are unfounded and he is incorrectly informing them that I surreptitiously recorded a casual conversation between us. He also claims that I am a part of some sort of conspiracy to attack or discredit him.
This is categorically untrue.
I identified myself as a reporter with Yahoo! Sports (who I wrote for at the time) and told him I was calling to ask him questions for a story regarding Cody McKenzie’s suspension. As per the law in my province, and most other Canadian provinces, as long as one person involved in a two-way conversation knows he or she is being recorded, it’s absolutely legal. As a rule, whenever a reporter calls you for comment, assume you’re being recorded. Most of us aren’t exceptionally fast typists, nor do we have photographic memories.
As far as me being a part of some secret plot against him, again, I am not. The reason why it has taken me so long to report on my findings in this investigation is that for the past three months I have painstakingly gone through every email, interview recording, and triple checked them for factual accuracy.
This isn’t the first time Reid has claimed that a reporter lied or made up malicious stories about him. In an April 22, 2010 email to fellow track coaches from the University of Alberta he claimed he “warned and practically sued the Edmonton Sun for inaccurate and defamatory articles targeting me and the Commission I work for.”
I practically won a million dollars on a scratch ticket this weekend. I didn’t, but I practically did.
I’ve read some of these most recent apologies purported to be from Reid.
A. Nobody is buying them (seriously).
B. They weren’t written by the Pat Reid who I’ve read multiple correspondences from.
If I had to guess, I’d say they were written by the Edmonton’s version of “Baghdad Bob,” David Aitken. He has ghost-written more than one letter for Edmonton’s mayors to sign, dozens of reports for council and committees to rubber stamp, and I’m told he has authored many emails for his superiors to send to reporters.
Since running my first story on the McKenzie suspension I have been flooded with emails and phone calls (both anonymously and on and off the record) from Reid’s former co-workers, former students, fighters, former commission members and former and current ECSC officials with stories and proof that Reid has acted improperly, unsafely, and illegally in several instances during his shaky tenure with the ECSC. I also have tangible proof that his improprieties have been covered up by several of the city’s administrative staff, most notably David Aitken.
I could have just sat on my hands and let Edmonton deal with its own mess it created, but I’m not that type of journalist, nor am I that type of person, especially when the safety and fair play of athletes are being compromised. When I know people have been and will continue to be treated unfairly, I choose to act. When I found out Reid and his ECSC cronies were trying to take over not only the provincial commission in Alberta, but also a national federation to oversee all of our Canadian commissions, I couldn’t sit idly by and let that happen without bringing to light all of his and their collective gross misdeeds.
If Edmonton wants to keep Reid in the city for games bid purposes and are OK with him mishandling combat sport regulation, that’s up to them, but I won’t stand idly by and let him ruin the sport for the rest of the province or the country due to corruption and greed.
At the very least those involved are guilty of a breach of public trust. At the worst, from the allegations I will be bringing to light in the coming days and weeks, they could be guilty of much, much worse infractions, including fight fixing and fraud.
NEXT: A timeline of Pat Reid’s reign of error as executive director of the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission