Rob Norris says he takes full responsibility for a social media post accusing Charlie Clark of “terrifying treatment of female Remai Modern board members.”
The Halloween-themed post that went up on Oct. 31 references “Charlie Clark’s spooky record.” On Sunday evening, Clark issued a statement that the reference to the two women “crossed a line.”
On Monday, Norris acknowledged the post went too far.
“I want to extend my heartfelt regrets to Charlie Clark, to his family and to all those that have called, emailed and contacted me through a variety of means, questioning my intent,” Norris said.
Pressed by reporters on whether he was sorry, Norris answered: “I have heartfelt regrets.”
The post references a Saskatoon StarPhoenix story from April 2019, in which two former board members, Alison Norlen and Veronica Gamracy, voiced concerns about the governance relationship between city hall and the Remai Modern.
Norlen said she felt “bullied” by Clark, while Gamracy said they were “scolded,” according to the article.
Global News left messages for Norlen and Gamracy Monday, but did not receive a response by deadline.
The post, according to Norris, went up without his “awareness, input or approval.” Norris said it’s “reasonable” to infer the post was made by his campaign operations director Dale Richardson. Richardson, according to the candidate, has been asked to “step back” from the campaign for a few days and his future involvement will be reviewed.
Reached by phone, Richardson confirmed the “break” and said his return is “to be determined.”
Norris said he also regrets comments made in an interview with another media outlet on Sunday.
“This post and, indeed, my subsequent interview do not reflect the values that the good, decent and fair-minded people of Saskatoon expect,” Norris said.
Norris cancelled a planned campaign announcement regarding support for veterans and military members on Monday. He spent more than 15 minutes taking questions about the social media post.
He also expressed his intention to speak with Clark Monday afternoon.
Clark, who is seeking his second term as mayor, declined an interview Monday morning. His campaign manager Michelle Beveridge said he had nothing to add to his Sunday evening statement.
“For someone who is a candidate for mayor, in the context of the #MeToo movement, to make this kind of libelous claim in a Hallowe’en joke post, shows a reckless treatment of a very serious issue and significant questionable judgement,” Clark said in the statement.
The incumbent also stated Norris is “deliberately playing a dangerous game” by using a news story about “how I talked to an entire board about a serious workplace safety issue that wasn’t being dealt with, and turning this into an accusation about how I treat women.”
Don Atchison, Mark Zielke, Zubair Sheikh and Cary Tarasoff are also running for mayor in Saskatoon. Election day is Nov. 9.