City council on Wednesday unanimously approved a formal, paid leave of absence for Coun. Jody Mitic, who represents Innes Ward in Ottawa’s east end and hasn’t been seen around city hall for some time.
Constituency staff will continue to handle matters related to Mitic’s ward but council also agreed today that Tim Tierney, Stephen Blais and Bob Monette — all fellow east-end councillors — will assist with any files that need sign-off or approval while their colleague is absent from work.
The leave of absence is for an undetermined amount of time, Mayor Jim Watson told reporters after the vote, so it remains unclear when or whether Mitic will return to city hall before the end of council’s term on December 1. Mitic has confirmed, however, that he won’t be running for office again in the upcoming fall election.
Watson said that deciding on a return date is up to Mitic and his physicians.
“Jody is experiencing some challenges and he needs that time away,” the mayor said. “This was important for us to pass this resolution so that he continues on as a councillor … obviously we’d like to see him come back. I certainly appreciate his participation at city hall but he’s got to take care of himself and his family first.”
Under Ontario’s Municipal Act, a councillor automatically forfeits their seat if he or she doesn’t show up to committee and council meetings for three months in a row — unless they apply for and obtain permission to go on a leave of absence from council.
Mitic’s request to council was accompanied by a medical note. He was not present at Wednesday’s meeting.
Mitic, who was elected to council in 2014, previously served as a sniper in the Canadian military. He fought in Afghanistan and lost both his legs below the knees more than a decade ago after stepping on an improvised explosive device, or IED.
He has publicly shared details of his struggles with depression and addictions to painkillers since serving overseas. In December last year, Mitic opened up in a local radio interview about how those struggles had resurfaced.
The war veteran, who had been noticeably absent from city hall ahead of the 2018 municipal budget vote, told CFRA’s Evan Solomon he was dealing with a new addiction to alcohol, which stemmed from his recent inability to wear his prosthetic legs due to infections.
“It’s been a rough year,” Mitic told Solomon. “I am frankly not doing well mentally; I’m not doing well physically. I feel like I failed in my duty as a councillor by not being forward.”
Mitic sits on three committees at city hall: transportation; environment and climate protection; and community and protective services. Council on Wednesday cut down quorum for committee meetings for the duration of his absence.
Council last granted a formal leave of absence to a councillor in 2013, when Blais suffered a heart attack.
Mitic had written on his Facebook page Tuesday that he would not be active on his social media accounts for three months.
He did, however, tweet Wednesday morning in response to news that Monette would not be running for re-election after four terms on council.