Ottawa

Rick Chiarelli is having heart surgery. Here are 3 things you need to know

Now that Coun. Rick Chiarelli is undergoing open-heart surgery, it raises a number of questions — not just about his health, but also about procedural issues at city hall and the state of an ongoing investigation.

Who will handle ward issues? How does it affect the ongoing investigation?

Coun. Rick Chiarelli showed up at council on Dec. 11, 2019. Soon afterwards, he was told he'd have to have open-heart surgery. (Kate Porter/CBC)

Now that Coun. Rick Chiarelli is undergoing open-heart surgery, it raises a number of questions — not just about the College ward councillor's health, but also about procedural issues at city hall and in the community.

Here are the three key things you need to know about what could happen next.

Chiarelli's leave of absence

Back in October, council denied Chiarelli's request for a leave of absence after he said he was not well enough to work. The councillor had provided a medical note, which was made public and clearly showed he was experiencing some health issues — he'd fainted, was taken to hospital by ambulance, and was undergoing "cardiac evaluation" — but council felt the exact nature and extent of his illness seemed somewhat vague.

At the time, council felt it didn't have enough information to grant Chiarelli an indefinite paid leave.

But recent news of Chiarelli's quadruple bypass is a different story.

Councillors can only be away from city hall for three months without permission, and it will take longer than that to recover from this sort of surgery. Chiarelli will have to ask again for leave before the end of March.

This time, council is expected to grant it quite readily.

Coun. Scott Moffatt had been handling some of the affairs in Chiarelli's ward during his previous absence. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Serving residents of College ward

This past Wednesday, council unanimously approved a motion relieving councillors Scott Moffatt and Allan Hubley of their official roles helping represent College ward residents while Chiarelli was unwell.

Moffatt told reporters after the council meeting that in the past few weeks, Chiarelli had been answering emails, dealing with city staff and engaging on an issue of $20,000 for a park. In other words, he appeared to be working.

But now that Chiarelli  is undergoing serious surgery, he will be out of commission for some time.

"Who is going to stand up for us at city hall? Who is going to represent what should be done in our community?"  asked Joan Clark, president of the Cityview Community Association.

Clark said she's had heart bypass surgery herself and knows it takes time to recover.

Joan Clark, president of the Cityview Community Association, says she's had heart surgery herself and knows Rick Chiarelli could be in for a long recovery. She wants to know who will represent her community at city hall during his absence. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

"He has to give up what his job is to take care of himself. He can't play the political game of wanting to keep control when he's a situation of recovering from a serious operation."

Council will have to reassign one or two councillors to officially help out College ward again — but that can't happen until late January, when council next meets.

In the meantime, Moffatt says he's already promised some groups to help them with a few issues — including the redevelopment of the Merivale Mall — and points out there's nothing stopping councillors from helping residents from other wards.

"The ward boundaries are the electoral boundaries, but the reality is we're all city councillors. So we can help out anyone across this city," Moffatt told CBC.

Bras were hung outside trees at city hall Wednesday to protest Chiarelli's inappropriate behaviour. Chiarelli has denied the allegations, and his absence could delay the investigation by the city's integrity commissioner. (Kate Porter/CBC)

Integrity commissioner's investigation continues

Chiarelli has been in the spotlight this fall after a CBC investigation reported the councillor's alleged inappropriate behaviour, such as asking former staffers and job applicants about whether they'd be willing to go braless to work events.

Chiarelli has denied these allegations.

Integrity commissioner Robert Marleau does not comment on whether an investigation is ongoing, but CBC has learned from sources that several women have filed formal complaints. As well, hired investigators have spent hours and hours taking testimony under oath from complainants and witnesses. 

That information gathering is expected to continue.

However, the process — already expected to take months — could be delayed if Chiarelli is not well enough to respond officially to the allegations.