Ottawa

3 Ottawa councillors call for Chiarelli to resign

Catherine McKenney, Jeff Leiper and Shawn Menard are calling on Coun. Rick Chiarelli to step down if the "degrading and completely inappropriate" behaviour being recounted by former staffers and job-seekers is indeed true.

McKenney, Leiper, Menard call women's accounts 'degrading'

Councillors Catherine McKenney, Jeff Leiper and Shawn Menard issued a joint statement Thursday afternoon calling on Rick Chiarelli to resign after six more women came forward with stories of his inappropriate behaviour. (CBC News)

Three Ottawa city councillors are calling on Coun. Rick Chiarelli to resign if the "degrading and completely inappropriate" behaviour being recounted by former staffers and job-seekers is indeed true.

Councillors Catherine McKenney, Jeff Leiper and Shawn Menard issued their joint statement Thursday afternoon, after six more women came forward with allegations the College ward councillor engaged in sexually inappropriate behaviour in the workplace.

The total number of women who have shared their stories about Chiarelli with CBC News now sits at seven.

"The accounts being repeated in the media regarding Coun. Chiarelli are degrading and completely inappropriate," the trio of councillors wrote.

"Council only has the power to suspend [the pay of] a councillor for 90 days. However, he should resign and apologize immediately if he knows these accounts are accurate."

Wide-ranging allegations

Earlier this month, one woman told CBC that Chiarelli asked her inappropriate questions of a sexual nature during a summer 2019 job interview, including whether she was comfortable not wearing a bra to work events.

She then complained to the city's integrity commissioner. 

Other interviewees and former workers have since come forward with their own complaints. One former assistant, Victoria Laaber, told CBC News that Chiarelli pressured her to wear revealing outfits and go "on assignment" to local strip clubs, allegedly to spy on another city councillor.

Caitlin Moore, who was offered an interview after meeting Chiarelli in 2014, said he showed her inappropriate photos of women including one photo of a naked woman he claimed had sent the picture in as a job application.

Bruce Sevigny, Chiarelli's lawyer, has said the councillor "adamantly" disputes the stories and will "respond more substantively when his health permits."

Chiarelli has requested a leave of absence for an unspecified medical issue, but city council declined Wednesday to vote on that request.

Coun. Riley Brockington said the latest allegations left him 'shocked.' Coun. Jeff Leiper said he was thinking about how to make sure political staffers have a safe work environment. 0:48

'No mechanism' to fire councillor

In their letter, McKenney, Leiper and Menard wrote that councillors' staff "cannot be subjected to hostile work environments," and that the protections that currently exist are "lacking."

"Our staff need access to resources and proper recourse when they experience or witness inappropriate behaviour," they wrote. "And they must be protected from retribution."

Earlier Thursday, Mayor Jim Watson said he had sought advice from city clerk Rick O'Connor on enhancing those protections, and that recommendations would be brought forward in the not-too-distant future.

Watson also said while integrity commissioner Robert Marleau could recommend Chiarelli's pay be suspended for up to 90 days, under provincial law, city council has "no mechanism" to outright dismiss one of its members.

He declined to share his own opinion about whether Chiarelli should step down.

"We are going to be tasked, as a council, with passing judgment on Coun. Chiarelli's actions based on the recommendations from the integrity commissioner," the mayor told reporters.

"And so until we deal with that, I think my personal opinion — although I would like to share it with it you — I feel that it's most appropriate for me to give the integrity commissioner the time to do his report."

With files from Joanne Chianello