Chiarelli investigation 'at a standstill,' says integrity commissioner

The city's integrity commissioner says he'll give Coun. Rick Chiarelli 'a reasonable amount of time' to respond to formal complaints of inappropriate behaviour, but he's prepared to conclude the investigation without hearing from the councillor.

Robert Marleau prepared to proceed with investigation without councillor's input

Coun. Rick Chiarelli has not yet provided the city's integrity commissioner with any response to formal complaints lodged against him of inappropriate behaviour, according to an interim report on the investigation released Friday. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

The city's integrity commissioner says his investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour involving Coun. Rick Chiarelli is at a standstill, according to a report released late Friday afternoon.

And while Robert Marleau says he will give Chiarelli "a reasonable amount of time" to respond to the formal complaints against him, he's also prepared to conclude the investigation without hearing from the College ward representative.

A CBC News investigation last fall corroborated the stories of 13 women who accused the councillor of inappropriate behaviour and reported the experiences of eight of them.

One job applicant alleged that Chiarelli asked her about going braless to work events, while another said the councillor asked if she had ever considered stripping.

A former employee said Chiarelli would pressure her to wear revealing outfits and took her to a strip club to spy on another councillor. 

Chiarelli has denied the allegations both through his lawyer and in a personal statement, where he blamed the accusations on "mob mentality."

Integrity Commissioner Robert Marleau, left, says his investigation into Coun. Rick Chiarelli is at a standstill. (Joanne Chianello/CBC)

Interim report expected

Marleau had given notice he was going to bring his interim report to council on Feb. 12, something he has the power to do to address "instances of interference, obstruction, delay or retaliation encountered during the investigation," according the city's website on the code of conduct for councillors.

A written version of that report was released late Friday, however, with the council agenda.

In the report, Marleau says several formal complaints about Chiarelli were filed between Sept. 6 and Oct. 8 — complaints the integrity commissioner felt could be in contravention of the code of conduct.

Marleau's office then began gathering evidence and doing interviews under oath. The integrity commissioner gave Chiarelli a copy of each complaint, with all the supporting materials, between Sept. 17 and Oct. 15 and asked the councillor for a written response within 10 business days, which is what the rules call for.

A bra hangs outside Ottawa City Hall on Sept. 13, 2019, as part of a protest against workplace harassment. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Instead, Chiarelli challenged the integrity commissioner's jurisdiction to handle the complaints, and said he planned to apply for a judicial review of Marleau's authority over the matter — although nothing has been filed in court so far.

When Marleau informed Chiarelli he would be proceeding with the investigation, Chiarelli "advised that he did not intend to offer a substantive response to the allegations," according to the report.

Around the same time, Chiarelli had requested an indefinite leave of absence from council to deal with medical issues, which council denied.

On Dec. 10, 2019, Marleau sent a written request for Chiarelli to be interviewed under oath. Three days later, the councillor was admitted to the Ottawa Heart Institute for bypass surgery.

Subsequent messages posted to Twitter and attributed to Chiarelli's wife indicate the councillor has been receiving treatment for a post-operative infection.

Marleau will wait 'reasonable' amount of time

Investigations are generally expected to take place within 90 days of complaints being filed, but the investigation into Chiarelli has "been at a standstill pending the respondent's decision about whether to participate," Marleau stated in his report.

The integrity commissioner wrote that he's prepared to allow Chiarelli to "recover from his medical issues" before asking again for a formal response to the allegations. Chiarelli has indicated that he would consider speaking with Marleau once he's feeling better.

However, if Chiarelli doesn't respond after a "reasonable amount of time" — it's unclear how much time that might be — the integrity commissioner wrote that he could conclude his investigation without the councillor's input and bring his final report to council.

Marleau will appear before council Wednesday to present his interim report.