Wednesday, May 12, 2004

May 12, 2004, Grewal "Has no Regrets" in hiring Marsden

No regrets hiring Marsden: Grewal: MP says Rachel Marsden was positive addition to office for six months
Surrey Now
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Byline: Marisa Babic

She's smart and she's a people person.

Those are just some of the reasons MP Gurmant Grewal gave for hiring Rachel Marsden, a U.S. Republican party calendar girl and self-styled political pundit who has been at the centre of two high-profile stalking and harassment controversies, to work as a consultant in his Surrey constituency office.

"She did a very good job. She's quite an intelligent person and she has good writing skills and she's very good to deal with people," Grewal said in an interview Monday.

But despite her fine qualities, the Conservative MP for Surrey Central abruptly terminated a contract with Marsden on Friday after news of their working relationship reached a Vancouver daily newspaper.

Grewal admits he was fully aware of Marsden's past before he hired her to write press releases and help him prepare power-point presentations for public meetings. Although she faces a court date in connection with charges of harassing former radio personality Michael Morgan between Oct. 1 and Nov. 14, 2002, Grewal notes Marsden hasn't been convicted.

"Everyone is innocent until proven otherwise," he said.

Grewal added he sought a legal opinion from Marden's lawyer on the possible outcome of her trial as part of his research into her background before hiring her.

Marsden's first brush with controversy came in 1996 after she alleged Simon Fraser University swim coach Liam Donnelly raped her. Donnelly was fired but later reinstated after he produced evidence that Marsden was stalking him and sent him sexually explicit e-mails.

Grewal insists his decision to sever ties with Marsden had nothing to do with the publicity swirling around the issue, or with the public expressions of dismay by Conservative party officials over his decision to hire Marsden.

Grewal claims he planned to terminate the contract on Monday, four days before the deed was actually done.

"I intended to terminate the contract early last week but I was in Ottawa," he said.

He said he then flew back home and broke the news to Marsden, who sometimes worked in Grewal's Newton office and at other times via e-mail and phone, but never travelled with him to the nation's capital.

He offered flimsy reasons for ending the association, saying he no longer needs Marsden's services because a federal election call appears imminent.

The Now's attempts to contact Marsden were unsuccessful but in an e-mail to the Province newspaper, Marsden denied she was "terminated" from her job.

Grewal said he hired Marsden for a three-month contract in December and then renewed the contract for another three months because he was impressed by her performance. The contract was supposed to run until the end of May but ended prematurely.

"The resume was quite impressive," he said.

Among other things, Marsden lists working at a conservative Washington DC think-tank. She has also penned articles and columns for a variety of publications and worked as a radio talk show host.

Grewal says he has no regrets about hiring Marsden.

"I don't regret hiring her on a short-term contract. In fact I'm pleased with her output.

He predicts her notoriety will fade with time.

"Her past will be overshadowed by all the positive work she has done to become a productive member of the society."

Sukh Dhaliwal, the Liberal candidate challenging Grewal for his seat, says Grewal displayed bad judgment.

"It is a very poor judgment call by our member of parliament, Mr. Grewal. We have an MP who hired a woman who has a history of stalking people," he said.

"This is very disturbing behaviour."