College ward Coun. Rick Chiarelli is arguing a report by the City of Ottawa’s integrity commissioner was “unfair” because he was unable to participate in the process and he is accusing the commissioner and the City of failing to accommodate his health conditions.
On Friday, Integrity Commissioner Robert Marleau released a report recommending “the most severe of sanctions” against Coun. Chiarelli after investigating allegations of improper conduct toward women applying for jobs in his office.
The report recommended council suspend Chiarelli’s salary for three consecutive 90-day periods, which amounts to more than $79,000 in pay.
The allegations against Chiarelli, which were first reported by CBC Ottawa in September 2019, involved comments that left the complainants “uncomfortable, embarrassed and troubled,” the report said.
The report details three complaints from people who had interviewed for a job in Coun. Chiarelli’s office. Marleau received two other complaints from former employees of his office, which he said would be dealt with in a separate report.
Chiarelli has denied any wrongdoing. In his most detailed response to the allegations last October, he denied the allegations and claimed they were part of a coordinated political attack. He told CTV News in November he would be vindicated.
Statement claims commissioner failed to accommodate ailing councillor
The councillor’s office issued a statement to the Ottawa Citizen on Friday, arguing the report was “unfair” because Chiarelli was unable to participate due to medical issues.
“The report is unfair because it was completed without consideration for Councillor Chiarelli having the opportunity to comment, not because he was unwilling to participate but because the Councillor was unable to due to ongoing medical issues which led to him requiring Open-Heart surgery then followed by severe complications which were documented,” the statement to the Citizen said. “Medical notes were provided to the Integrity Commissioner on several occasions which he failed to mention in his Interim Report despite having them at that time but those are now recorded in the final report.
“On April 14, the Councillor also experienced another medical emergency which was determined to be a TIA aka mini-stroke which led to some temporary memory loss and a recommendation from the neurosurgeon extending his medical leave and not to participate in anything stressful until the end of July.”
Marleau’s report says, in item 31, that Chiarelli was “afforded the opportunity to provide written responses, information, and documentation, to be interviewed on invitation and to represent his position in response to the allegations.”
Marleau said he had issued a summons for Chiarelli to appear and provide testimony under oath but he doubts that it was brought to Chiarelli’s attention.
Marleau told council in May, he would continue his investigation without Chiarelli’s participation.
On Sunday afternoon, CTV News Ottawa was provided with the same statement given to the Ottawa Citizen on Friday, but the councillor’s office included three additional paragraphs accusing Marleau and the City of Ottawa of failing to accommodate Chiarelli’s health.
“While the Integrity Commissioner does acknowledge at item 80 of his report that Councillor Chiarelli has experienced significant health challenges and acknowledges receiving medical certificates he has repeatedly failed to take into consideration how these serious health challenges have prevented him from being able to participate,” the additional statement to CTV News says. “Namely an open-heart operation and serious bacterial infection that lasted several months for which the Councillor has shared information about openly with the public as well as Mr. Marleau as well as other complications.
“Mr. Marleau has repeatedly ignored medical professionals opinions not on an expected return to work date at the end of March but an appointment for Medical re-assessment and further concluded that the Councillor was unwilling to participate in early May when he had been provided a medical certificate with an expected return to work date of late June this was later extended to the end of July.
“This clearly shows that the Integrity Commissioner and the City of Ottawa have failed in their duty to accommodate the Councillor in regards to his health condition as it relates to his participation in this investigation.”
Director of Strategic Affairs & Communications in Chiarelli’s office, Chantal Lebel, sent the statement to CTV News on Chiarelli’s behalf.
The final sentence of the statement says a judicial review was filed with the court on Friday, “as this process was filled with bias, no natural justice and was based on no tangible evidence except hearsay.”
Chiarelli requested a leave of absence from council in October, citing a doctor’s note that he had fainted, but his colleagues denied the request. He had open-heart surgery in December and was subsequently treated for a bacterial infection, according to a tweet on his account in January, reportedly sent by his wife.
Since council denied his request for medical leave, Chiarelli has shown up to some council meetings in order to maintain his seat. Under Ontario law, a municipal council seat is declared vacant if a councillor does not attend meetings for three consecutive months.
Council will consider Marleau’s report Wednesday and decide whether to penalize Chiarelli.
With files from CTV Ottawa’s Christina Succi and Michael Woods.
Read Marleau’s full report below: