Rick Chiarelli announces leave due to unspecified illness

Coun. Rick Chiarelli says he was rushed to the emergency department in mid-August and has been too ill to work since then. The announcement comes less than two weeks after CBC reported troubling allegations involving the College ward councillor.

College ward councillor at centre of troubling allegations

Coun. Rick Chiarelli says he was rushed to the emergency room on Aug. 14. (CBC)

Coun. Rick Chiarelli says he was rushed to the emergency department last month and has been too ill to work since then, according to a note sent out by his city hall office Tuesday afternoon.

"I have attempted to follow my doctor's instructions since then, almost completely eliminating work and stress activity and attending follow-up appointments," according to the memo. "I hope to return to my duties as soon as possible, but must continue to focus on my recovery."

Earlier this month, CBC reported on a woman's allegations that the councillor asked her during a job interview if she would go braless to certain work events. Former employees also alleged inappropriate behaviour, including one unnamed woman who provided CBC with a text exchange in which Chiarelli suggested she buy a dress that was not "Ho-ish but ... no bra required."

Through his lawyer, Chiarelli called the allegations "spurious." Chiarelli's lawyer has said the councillor has been on "medical stress leave" since mid-August.

Only council can grant formal leave

The memo from the councillor's office is titled, "Councillor Rick Chiarelli announces formal leave of absence."

In fact, no councillor can simply declare he or she is on a formal leave of absence — only council can grant a formal leave that is more than three months long. 

In theory, councillors can miss up to three months' worth of council meetings without the express permission of council. Otherwise, they lose their seats. 

If they believe they need to be away from council longer, they ask for a formal leave, which council virtually always approves. In recent years, former Innes councillor Jody Mitic applied for a leave of absence in 2018 to deal with his health and addiction issues, and Cumberland Coun. Stephen Blais was granted leave in 2013 after suffering a heart attack at the gym.

In both those instances, other councillors stepped in to help the constituents of the elected officials who were off.

It's not clear that any other councillors are helping out Chiarelli's residents. In his memo, he said his staff  "are well versed on the important issues in the ward and will continue to work on behalf of residents."

Chiarelli also said "medical documentation has been made available to the city clerk on a confidential basis."