Having been ostracized by his colleagues and demands from community groups for his resignation, College Coun. Rick Chiarelli is fighting back.
This week, Chiarelli’s office sent On the City, From the Burbs, a detailed statement – pointing out he’s not caving into demands for his resignation and his belief that Integrity Commissioner Robert Marleau didn’t treat his case fairly – given his life-threatening illness.
The statement was sent to this blog from his city staffer Chantal Lebel.
And I’ve said many times, I believe and trust the allegations of the women who’ve come forward, what I don’t believe is that Watson with his lack-of-leadership and bias against Chiarelli handled this properly or fairly.
Remember, Watson – who despises Chiarelli – immediately called for the councillor’s resignation.
The following is an edited version of what was sent to On the City, From the Burbs, outlining Chiarelli’s medical issues. Chiarelli makes a strong case that his medical issues were ignored. People don’t seem to want to believe that, but that’s how I see it.
Sept. 2019: Chiarelli requests medical leave, supplying a medical note to the city clerk’s office dated Sept. 24, 2019 that he had experienced a medical emergency on Aug. 14, 2019 with referrals made to Cardiology and and he is to remain off for the retroactive period until Oct. 9, 2019.
Sept. 25, 2019: A decision about medical leave is postponed by council as councillors state they don’t have enough evidence to grant the medical request.
October 2019: Chiarelli supplies two more medical notes to the clerk’s office, one dated Oct. 8, 2020 with a recommendation of extending his leave from Oct. 10, 2019 to Nov. 11, 2019 and another dated Oct. 22, 2019. Council still denied the medical leave despite the fact that they were warned by the city solicitor not to let allegations become a factor in whether or not they were to grant medical leave. Some claimed a lack of medical details, which are never needed by law in a request for leave, although this note also advised cardiac evaluations were ongoing . This medical note advised Chiarelli’s medical leave should be further extended from Nov. 11, 2019 to Dec. 1, 2019.
Dec. 10, 2019: Integrity Commissioner sends an e-mail to Chiarelli demanding that he come in for an interview between Dec.17 and Dec. 20, 2019.
Dec. 11, 2019: Chiarelli attends the city council budget meeting, against doctor’s orders, as he has never missed one and his medical leave request had been denied. This is the meeting where most councillors stood in protest against Chiarelli and the mayor stated that they did not want to be seen in the same room as him. The mayor allowed a protest inside and outside council chambers contrary to the existing policy and rules. Upon leaving the meeting, the councillor is advised he is to check in to the Heart Institute the following day for surgery the day after.
Dec. 13, 2019: In his report, Marleau acknowledges receiving confirmation from Chiarelli’s legal counsel that Chiarelli had been admitted to the Heart Institute and would undergo open-heart surgery and that he would not be in a position to consider whether to participate in the investigations until his medical recovery had progressed to a stable and acceptable level.
Dec. 20, 2019: Integrity Commissioner writes to Chiarelli to let him know that someone has filed another complaint against him on November 29, 2019 and that the councillor must respond by Jan. 8, 2020. This was not in the report delivered July 15, 2020. .Marleau did not provide accommodations or an extension for the councillor despite having been advised that Chiarelli had just undergone open-heart surgery a week prior and despite having been advised of an expected six to 12-week recovery. Chiarelli remained in the hospital after his surgery until Dec. 28, 2019 and was readmitted on Jan. 8, 2020 after a visit to the Civic Hospital Emergency the day before, where further testing revealed a serious bacterial infection of his sternal wound. He had to remain in hospital for a few weeks while being treated until he was released on Jan. 24, 2020 while still on IV antibiotics with a 24/7 infection drainage pump, under a homecare nursing team.
Ten days after being advised of the councillor’s open-heart surgery, before he was even discharged from hospital, Marleau informed Chiarelli’s legal counsel of his intention to close the report exactly six weeks after the councillor’s surgery date despite having been advised of an expected recovery of six to 12 weeks. This does not support Marleau’s claim of providing reasonable accommodations for the councillor’s health. Marleau corresponded with Chiarelli and his lawyer on Dec.16 and 19 as well, in both cases demonstrating no willingness to accommodate Chiarelli’s medical recovery. There was also another on Jan. 6, 2020 as well as the ones already mentioned on December 20 and 23, 2019.
Fe. 7, 2020: Integrity Commissioner’s Report is released five calendar days in advance of council.
February 2020: The Integrity Commissioner is sent two additional medical notes from specialists caring for Chiarelli. One was dated Feb. 25 from Infectious Diseases, advising that he should remain off work until March 24, 2020 – with a reassessment coming at that time – the other dated Feb. 19th, from his Cardiac Surgeon, indicating he should remain off work until at least March 25, 2020.
Marleau refers to these communications stating he scheduled an interview for April 6, 2020 approximately 1.5 weeks after Chiarelli’s expected “return to work.” He fails to mention the date of receipt of these medical notes, as well as failing to mention that one states Chiarelli “should remain off work until at least March 25.” He further fails to mention the councillor is to be reassessed by his Infectious Disease specialist on March 24, 2020 until further in his report where he states that “no further updates were offered by the respondent or his legal counsel.”
Feb. 28, 2020: Marleau seeks the agreement of the councillor’s legal counsel to issue the summons to him, on behalf of his client.
March 4, 2020: The Integrity Commissioner sends an e-mail to Chiarelli to say that he would be sending a summons for Chiarelli to appear before him.
The Integrity Commissioner did send someone on multiple occasions to serve the summons. The Chiarellis had not been answering the door to anyone they didn’t know, given the media attention and the COVID pandemic. Doctors had advised him not to be in contact with anyone who might be sick.
These events occur before the end of the best case six to 12 week recovery period that would be anticipated for someone who had undergone open-heart surgery and not had a serious bacterial infection. At this point, Chiarelli was still on IV antibiotics with daily nursing care at home.
March 16, 2020: The process server leaves the summons inside the Chiarellis front screen door. The summons requests the councillor appear for an interview on April 6, 2020. This was the very first day city hall was slated to reopen after a three-week closure due to the pandemic.
*That day Chiarelli’s CBI home care nurse had just walked into the Chiarelli home, past the process server. She had been expected and had phoned that she had arrived. Minutes later, someone started ringing the doorbell and Lida, the councillor’s wife, locked it so they wouldn’t be disturbed. The process server may have observed the councillor get up to meet his nurse as she needed to proceed to his care, change his IV and dressings and train his wife to do it so she could do it in the days to come as COVID restrictions had been put in place and the nurses wouldn’t be able to continue attending every day as he was still recovering from a very serious post-operative bacterial infection, was still on IV antibiotics and therefore still in a vulnerable health position.
April 17, 2020: A further medical note dated March 26, 2020, the date Chiarelli was reassessed by his Cardiac Surgeon, was provided to the Integrity Commissioner by the Councillor’s legal counsel . He informs Marleau that Chiarelli was to be off until June 29, 2020. Marleau was also informed that the Councillor had experienced another medical emergency on April 14, 2020.
If all went well, the recovery could have taken six to 12 weeks at best. With an infection, Chiarelli was told that his recovery period would only start once his infection was completely cleared. Since the councillor was on IV antibiotics fighting a serious infection for months and since the infection returned and needed further treatment on April 14, 2020, the complications have pushed back his anticipated recovery date significantly. The continued complications underline the need to avoid stress in order to be able to heal.
April 24, 2020: Marleau advises Chiarelli’s legal counsel and provided the councillor with notice that the May 6, 2020 interview was cancelled and no further requests for interviews would be made. He also informed Sevigny that, in the absence of the councillor’s participation, he intended to rely on his public statements as his response to the allegations set out in the formal complaints and would proceed to make his findings and report to council as appropriate.
May 27, 2020: Interim Report is presented to council. No medical accommodations made in spite of multiple medical notes provided to city clerk’s office.
May 29, 2020: Chiarelli’s medical leave is extended until the end of July 2020.
July 15, 2020: The final report was delivered to council and recommended sanctions voted on with no concern or respect for Councillor Chiarelli’s health condition. “I’ve not counted the number, but along the way he was offered many opportunities to confirm that he wishes to participate, to reply. He was invited to interview, of course I received medical certificates in that process. I respected every one of them. I only recontacted the councillor or his lawyer after the medical certificates had expired..” Statement made during July 15, 2020 report to Council by Robert Marleau, Integrity Commissioner.
Throughout this process the Integrity Commissioner has continued to communicate with the councillor and his legal counsel, to set new dates for responses to complaints or to request that the councillor appear for an interview during the times covered by his medical notes. Marleau presented two interim reports to council which either failed to take into account the councillor’s ability to participate as per the medical notes provided to him or blatantly misconstrued the facts while he knew Chiarelli had been advised by his medical team to remain off work and not participate in stressful activities.
Marleau then decided to complete and deliver his final report without the councillor’s input which he qualified as Chiarelli being unwilling to participate. The Integrity Commissioner has insisted in his report that Chiarelli has resumed some work, citing social media posts as an example. Much of the councillor’s social media continues to be managed by staff following a March staff meeting of the councillor’s assistants on refocusing our energies on the Councillor’s social media presence. As Council has denied granting him sick leave, Chiarelli has had no choice but to continue to perform some of his duties, against the advice of his healthcare team and even at the potential detriment of his health, such as showing up for council meetings days before his open-heart surgery and then again in February shortly after being released from the hospital while still attached to an infection drainage pump and IV antibiotics, in order not to be forced out of his duly-elected position and not to lose his medical benefits.
Although his colleagues have voted to suspend his pay for 270 days, effective starting Aug. 14th, 2020, Chiarelli has no intention of resigning, reads the statement sent from his executive assistant Chantal Lebel, director of Strategic Affairs and Communications.” He remains dedicated to living up to the oath he took when he was sworn into office. He continues to have the well-being of the College Ward community at heart and intends to fulfill the commitment he made to his constituents who re-elected him to his position as councillor and to serve his full term in office even if that means he will be doing so without pay for the period imposed in the sanctions against him.
“In the meantime, the councillor believes that the court action he has initiated will bring the truth to light and highlight some of the very blatant bias by the Integrity Commissioner and other individuals involved in the process.”
Last fall, media reports were published detailing allegations from several Chiarelli staffers and job applicants about sexually inappropriate questions and comments from the College ward councillor.
Following a 10-month investigation, Integrity Commissioner Robert Marleau recommended Chiarelli be docked nine months of his salary – close to $80,000.
Chiarelli has continually denied the allegations. His lawyer Bruce Sevigny has told the city he’s been instructed to apply for a judicial review of the integrity commissioner’s authority to conduct this sort of investigation.