FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA - Horizon Ottawa is raising concerns about newly-appointed Chief of Staff to Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, Robyn Guest. She previously served as Director of Policy in Jim Watson’s office and is the sister of Brian Guest, who faced questioning by the LRT Inquiry Commission for his significant role in major issues with Ottawa’s ailing light rail system.
After working at City Hall for Bob Chiarelli, and briefly for Jim Watson, Brian Guest went on to become a partner and consultant at the firm Boxfish. This firm was awarded millions in contracts on LRT Stage 1, all while his sister, Robyn Guest, still worked at City Hall in various capacities.
Brian Guest came back into the public eye in Fall 2021 when an email conversation between him and Chiarelli was leaked to the press, where he told Chiarelli he would be “screwed” if there were to be an LRT inquiry. He was also recently similarly embroiled in another conflict-of-interest scandal that caused him to resign his role at Metrolinx, Ontario’s Crown Agency for Public Transportation.
The entanglement does not end there however. Robyn Guest’s husband, Chris Swail, was the Director of O-Train Planning for the city until 2019. Most notably, Swail headed up the department while the city awarded SNC-Lavalin the LRT Stage 2 contract, despite them failing the technical score, which was not known to the public at that time. Swail now works for Comtech, a firm that has been awarded contracts in partnership with Boxfish.
“Hiring a Chief of Staff who has close family ties with someone who is so deeply entangled in the light rail scandal shows that our new Mayor is not taking accountability around LRT issues seriously,” said Sam Hersh, Board Member of Horizon Ottawa. “Ottawans elected him on the premise that he would work to get us out of this mess, but we struggle to see how this brings us closer to that.”
During this Fall’s municipal election, Sutcliffe pledged to improve accountability with respect to the LRT and he recently repeated the promise with November’s publication of the long-awaited LRT Inquiry report. He also set out, with Council’s approval, to create a subcommittee with the purpose of studying the report and acting on its recommendations.
“Despite whatever Guest’s qualifications may be we are sure there are plenty of other qualified and competent people Sutcliffe could have tapped for his Chief of Staff” said Hersh, “While we applaud some initial decisions to work towards full accountability around the LRT, this decision strikes us as quite counter-intuitive to the Mayor’s stated goals. This warrants concern that we may be seeing more of the same old status quo, not the change we need.”
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