Ottawa

Chiarelli shouldn't be banned from city hall, staff recommend

Disgraced College ward Coun. Rick Chiarelli will have severe restrictions placed on how he carries out his official duties for the rest of the term, but will still be allowed onto city hall property, should council accept staff recommendations at Wednesday's council meeting.

City calls for severe restrictions on how College ward councillor carries out duties for rest of council term

Ottawa's city council wanted staff to look at ways to restrict Coun. Rick Chiarelli's access to city property — a measure beyond what the integrity commissioner recommended. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

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  • Council approved these measures on Dec. 9, 2020.
  • Coun. Rick Chiarelli recused himself from this item at the city council meeting.

Disgraced College ward Coun. Rick Chiarelli will have severe restrictions placed on how he carries out his official duties for the rest of the term, but will still be allowed onto city hall property, should council accept the recommendations of a city staff report up for discussion at Wednesday's council meeting.

After the second shocking integrity commissioner's report on Chiarelli's harassment toward former staffers —  including speaking to women about going braless to work and commenting on their bodies — was presented to council on Nov. 25, elected officials united in renouncing the College ward councillor and demanding his immediate resignation. 

And they supported a wide range of measures against the councillor.

Some were sanctions recommended by Integrity Commissioner Robert Marleau — in particular, suspending Chiarelli's salary for six months, or three months for each of the two formal complainants. That's on top of the nine months' pay that Chiarelli was docked for his behaviour in three job interviews.

The integrity commissioner also recommended that the office of city clerk Rick O'Connor take over the $250,000 annual office budget and all human resource issues in Chiarelli's office — again, a measure that council wholly endorsed. In fact, Chiarelli's corporate credit card was revoked immediately after the Nov. 25 council meeting.

The city clerk will ensure that the member's seating location would not be physically near other members of council.- Ottawa city staff report

Chiarelli's office will no longer be allowed to spend any money on hospitality. In fact, according to the report, Chiarelli's office had already spent some money on the councillor's annual alcohol-free New Year's Eve event, but O'Connor will now consult with the medical officer of health to determine whether the party should go ahead during the pandemic.

Cannot ban Chiarelli from city hall

But council also wanted staff to look at ways to restrict the councillor's access to city property — a measure beyond what the integrity commissioner recommended.

"I ask that his seat at the council table be moved so that none of us have to sit beside him," said Coun. Jenna Sudds. "His actions as detailed in the report and the very lengthy appendix is enough to turn one's stomach. It is appalling, and no woman should ever have to deal with this type of behaviour."

Coun. Jenna Sudds stood for the entire council meeting on Nov. 6, 2019, to protest Chiarelli's return to council. (CBC)

But city staff doesn't believe it has the authority to ban Chiarelli from city hall — but it can make him sit away from his colleagues at meetings.

According to the report, "it is important to distinguish between sanctions that are intended to punish misconduct, and remedial measures directed at preventing a recurrence of the misconduct or providing corrective actions."

Council's job is to take the integrity commissioner's findings and recommendations into account — not impose its own punishments on a fellow councillor. Chiarelli is still an elected official and a private citizen, and an effort to keep him out of city hall or other city-owned administrative buildings, community centres or public libraries would be neither feasible nor likely to be upheld by the courts.

However, as the College ward councillor has been found to speak and behave inappropriately toward city employees, the staff report holds that it's acceptable for Chiarelli to be kept away from other councillors during meetings, as a remedial measure. 

"The city clerk will ensure that the member's seating location would not be physically near other members of council but would provide for the … councillor to participate fully in council meetings," according the report.

Chiarelli would have to let the clerk's office know ahead of time if he was coming to an in-person council or committee meeting, when they resume.

As well, members of the city's operational staff may request that another person be present in any meeting with Chiarelli, while the councillor's own staff members can opt to have communications with the councillor only through the city's official email system — no text messages, meetings or telephone calls. 

Council will vote on the report during Wednesday's council meeting, where it will also deliberate on the 2021 budget, changes to the Lansdowne partnership plan and the redrawing of the municipal electoral map.

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