Ottawa city council voted unanimously Wednesday to dock College Coun. Rick Chiarelli’s pay for a cumulative 270 days following an investigation into three instances of alleged sexual harassment arising from his office’s hiring practices.
The sanctions, which cover three consecutive 90-day pay periods, are the most severe penalty available to council, which does not have the authority to remove councillors or force them to resign.
The penalties were recommended in a report from Ottawa’s integrity commissioner Robert Marleau, which found that Chiarelli breached council’s code of conduct related to complaints from three women who had applied for jobs in his office.
According to the report, the women allege Chiarelli asked them a series of questions that were sexual in nature and made inappropriate comments about their bodies during the interviews.
The integrity commissioner also investigated two allegations of harassment that took place on the job, but that report has yet to be filed.
Council also went into an hour-long in-camera session Wednesday to hear details of another workplace harassment complaint filed against Chiarelli.
The original five complaints, filed between September and early October, came amid a CBC News investigation documenting accounts from numerous women who alleged they experienced sexual harassment or sexually inappropriate comments while working in Chiarelli’s office or while interviewing to work for him.
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The councillor has denied any allegations of sexual misconduct.
Chiarelli has also launched legal action against the integrity commissioner’s report, claiming he was not treated fairly or given adequate opportunity to respond to the investigation, though the city’s legal team found no reason the report could not be considered by council while the court prepares to hear the councillor’s application.
For his part, Marleau said Chiarelli and his legal team were given numerous opportunities to respond, even taking into consideration the councillor’s health complications earlier in the year.
Chiarelli attempted to fund his legal defence from his office budget, city clerk Rick O’Connor confirmed Wednesday, but the request was denied.
Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt said Wednesday the attempted use of funds was “incredibly egregious.”
Mayor Jim Watson thanked Marleau for his report as well as the women who came forward to “courageously” share their personal stories.
He urged his colleagues to vote in favour of the sanctions against what he called Chiarelli’s “disgusting and completely inappropriate behaviour.”
Chiarelli, who attended Wednesday’s council meeting, declared a conflict of interest in the matter and did not vote.
The remaining 21 councillors present Wednesday all voted in favour of imposing the penalty.
The docked pay will take effect on Aug. 14.