Coun. Rick Chiarelli remains in hospital fighting a bacterial infection following his open-heart surgery in mid-December, according to a message posted to his Twitter account on Monday and attributed to his wife.
On Dec. 12, 2019, the Ottawa city councillor for College Ward was admitted to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute for open-heart surgery that was “necessary to save his life,” according to a press release his office issued at the time.
On Jan. 10, 2020, a tweet signed by the councillor’s wife, Lida, said the procedure on Dec. 13 was “successful” and that Chiarelli was released from hospital before New Year’s but readmitted a few days later because a “serious bacterial infection” was found in his chest that required immediate treatment.
In a brief update she posted to the councillor’s Twitter account on Monday, 10 days later, Lida confirmed that Chiarelli is still at the Heart Institute.
“Progress is being made on the infection Rick got from his Dec. 13 open-heart surgery,” said the tweet attributed to Lida.
“A combination of IV antibiotics and a tube continuously attached to his chest ‘vacuuming out’ infection.”
Chiarelli was hospitalized amidst the fallout of misconduct allegations levelled against him a few months earlier.
In September, CBC News reported on allegations by several women who claimed the longtime councillor had made remarks or requests of a sexual nature, either during job interviews or when they worked in his office. Chiarelli has categorically denied that he treated any member of his staff or any job candidate in a sexually harassing, discriminatory or inappropriate fashion.
In late September, Chiarelli requested medical leave from city council, saying his recent absence from city business was due to a medical issue that arose in mid-August.
In October, city councillors unanimously refused to grant him sick leave. Since then, the embattled councillor has only shown up for council business intermittently.
Chiarelli showed up to council on Nov. 6 for the tabling of the draft 2020 budget and then council’s meeting on Dec. 11, but he didn’t stay for the full meeting and missed the budget vote. On his way out of city hall, Chiarelli told reporters he was leaving the meeting because he wasn’t feeling well.
The news release two days later announcing Chiarelli had been admitted to hospital said the councillor’s cardiologists and surgeons ordered the open-heart surgery “after months of extensive evaluations by his medical team.”
The statement said Chiarelli was due to undergo a quadruple heart bypass.
The release stated the councillor’s recent attendance at council ran contrary to his doctors’ advice, but he showed up “in order to maintain his council seat, and his health benefits and insurance coverages.”
“As he went into surgery today, Coun. Chiarelli remained in a difficult state of limbo, with no approved medical leave,” the Dec. 13 statement said.
“He will have to do his best and, with the continued help of his excellent staff, as he recovers and becomes progressively stronger, he hopes to do more and more of the work needed in his ward. In the meantime, his wonderful staff is dealing with constituent concerns and community issues and keeping Rick informed.”
According to the Ontario Municipal Act, councillors can only miss three months of council meetings before their seat is considered vacated — unless a formal leave is approved by city council.