A group of protesters stood up at an Ottawa city council meeting on Wednesday wearing shirts emblazoned with the message “Resign Rick” after embattled Coun. Rick Chiarelli arrived for council’s budget vote.
Later, the protesters went out to the lobby to hold up a banner and chant, calling for Chiarelli to go and for the City of Ottawa to improve its workplace harassment policies.
Veronique Prevost, who started a petition this Sunday calling for Chiarelli’s resignation, participated in the protest. She said the community is not happy, as they believe the city has fallen short in providing a safe workplace for employees.
“We want to bring it to the forefront and to also underline that the community is not happy with how things are right now,” Prevost said, adding that it is paramount everyone has a safe workplace.
This includes staffers in councillors’ offices, Prevost says, such as some of the women who have come forward with allegations against Chiarelli, accusing him of making inappropriate comments and requests to female staff and interviewees. Chiarelli has denied the allegations.
Ottawa’s integrity commissioner has opened an investigation into the misconduct allegations, which is currently ongoing.
“I think it’s important that we send a message of support to the 13 victims that came forward, that we believe them, that we’re standing in support with them and everybody deserves a safe workplace,” said Prevost.
“The city has an obligation to make sure that they’re covered and that they have good policies in place.”
As of Thursday morning, Prevost’s petition had reached over 1,600 signatures.
Chiarelli was on hand at the meeting but left early. He spoke to the media briefly after leaving city hall, saying he couldn’t comment specifically on the allegations.
He noted, however, that he is going to put forth a court challenge arguing the city’s integrity commissioner doesn’t have the jurisdiction to investigate the claims.
Chiarelli also went on to say there are processes involved when such allegations arise at city hall and that he has to respect those processes.
Earlier this year, Chiarelli asked for medical leave from council, which was denied, though his ward duties were split between councillors Scott Moffatt and Allan Hubley. In the wake of the decision, he was unwilling to comment on his health, telling media to instead look at the documentation he has made public regarding his health.
“I’ve given everything, given medical certificates. They’ve been misread and misinterpreted by media so I don’t intend to tell that again,” said Chiarelli.
“You’ve got the actual medical certificates dating back to the last request. I don’t see the point in any further. It’s right there in black and white.”
A motion was introduced by Moffatt at council on Wednesday asking for ward duties to be returned to Chiarelli as it appears he has effectively returned to work by going to public events, appearing at council and approving budget expenses for his staff.
The vote passed.
Several councillors elected not to sit at the council table in protest of Chiarelli when he appeared at council.
Mayor Jim Watson spoke to this after the council meeting, as well as Moffatt’s motion saying council members are unwilling to work with Chiarelli.
“I think you saw it today, both by members of the public who wore the shirts and then a number of my colleagues who stood up. People feel very uncomfortable,” said Watson.
“Even with the motion by councillors Hubley and Moffatt, they don’t even want to be associated with his office anymore, so this thing can’t go on and on and on, and I hope that he realizes he is putting his constituents and his colleagues in a very untenable situation.”