City of Wetaskiwin councillor resigned, then charged with sexual assault

Mayoral candidate pulls from running

Former City of Wetaskiwin council member and once-hopeful 2017 mayoral candidate Joe Branco has been charged with sexual assault.

A not guilty plea was given by Branco’s lawyer on his behalf during the first court appearance. The matter will be back before the court on Sept. 29 for a preliminary hearing.

Court documents state Branco was charged with sexual assault on May 25, 2017, for an alleged offence on or between July 1, 2011 and Dec. 31, 2014.

It was not until July 20, 2017 — almost two months after the charges were filed — that Branco resigned from city council for unrelated reasons.

Following his resignation Branco still harboured plans to run for mayor of the City of Wetaskiwin in the upcoming election. However, that is no longer the case.

Council colleagues and city staff were unaware of the charges while Branco sat on council, explained City of Wetaskiwin mayor Bill Elliot.

In a brief interview with the Pipestone Flyer on July 20, Elliot had no comments as to why Branco resigned, “He tendered his resignation … I have nothing else to say, sorry.”

At a later date Elliot said the reason Branco quite stemmed from a breach of confidentiality.

“We did not know while he was serving on council that there were any charges against him,” Elliot told CBC News Wednesday. “He’s believed to be innocent until proven guilty but I think in a leadership role at least we should have been advised that there was something going on. I don’t feel we should have been kept in the dark and been surprised.”