Missing Brian

My heart ached for CTV Ottawa anchor Patricia Boal tonight.

The anchor couldn’t hold back her tears as she spoke about CJOH sports director Brian Smith, whom she first met when she was working at CFRA. Frankly, why she should have to?

I cried with her, and I’m willing to bet thousands of other Ottawans did the same.

Though I’ve never been a big sports fan, Smith transcended all of that. He was likeable, you  trusted him – and he dd more than his  part in the community to make our city a better place.

He, like his boss Max Keeping, was all about Ottawa.

Brian Smith was murdered 25 years ago. So hard to believe. In many ways, with many Ottawans’ memories are still so fresh about that day, doesn’t seem it can actually have been a quarter of a century.

Time is such a funny thing, isn’t it? While my memory fades on many things, still remember that time so vividly.

I’d gotten home from a day shift at the Ottawa Sun, turned on the news and heard Smith had been shot. It was so incredibly unreal. I phoned the office, spoke to Drew McAnulty who was on the city desk to make sure the Sun had heard the news. Of course, they had.

Like everyone else in the city, I knew Smith from seeing his face beam into my living room most nights. We all felt we knew him, we trusted him, we liked him – a lot. (As an aside, I was always a bit shocked at seeing how members of the public responded to television personalities. I remember being at events with CJOH anchor Max Keeping and how people just clearly felt they knew him, always hollering out a hello or a hi, which of course he always responded to.)

To no one’s surprise to anyone that knew Keeping, he was an incredible professional, delivering the news that night his sports director had been shot. And to know how random the shooting actually was, that just being a familiar journalism face had caused his death – unfathomable.

While there was overwhelming sympathy directed at his new bride Alana Kainz in the beginning, for some reason, the public turned on her in short-order.

I saw Ottawa at its most judgmental. I certainly didn’t know her well, but I was appalled at how in such a short period of time, the public appeared to go from incredibly sympathy to absolute judge and jury. 

For those of you who thought she was a gold digger, I recall a story where – and I could well have the exact details confused but I know I have the sentiment right – Smith suggested one of them pay for golf and the other pay for the wedding. When she told the story, she just laughed. 

On this anniversary of Smith’s death, I think of him, of his impact on this city and what could have been. 

And I think of Patricia Boal and everyone who knew Smith, whether as a friend or co-worker of just through our television screens. We’re sharing in the grief.

Was Chiarelli Treated Fairly?

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.

College Coun. Rick Chiarelli has absolutely “no intention” of resigning from Ottawa City Council

Amid increased calls for his resignation, Chiarelli’s office released a statement to On the City, From the Burbs, stating the beleaguered councillor absolutely intends to continue working.

“Although his colleagues have voted to suspend his pay for 270 days, effective starting August 14th, 2020, Councillor 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 published detailed 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. 

The report was based on allegations from three job applicants. A second report is still being written, looking at complaints of two former staff members. That could mean a further reduction in his salary. Council approved the penalties at a city council meeting this month.

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.
The 12-page document details Chiarrelli’s medical issues and council’s reaction to his actions. Several doctor’s notes were also included in the package for information purposes only, not to be reported on or passed on. But the underlying message is that his frequent medical updates were ignored by Marleau and his office in pushing ahead with the investigation and damning report.

Seems to be a lot of credibility on the line with this story.

As I have written in the past, I believe the women’s accusations.
But it’s clear to me the Mayor Jim Watson, Integrity Commissioner Robert Marleau and the entire city council made up their minds before ever looking beyond the allegations, or waiting for a judicial body to examine the facts. And for the record, the city’s hired Integrity Commissioner Robert Marleau isn’t what I’m thinking about.

In my mind, Chiarelli is bright, incredibly funny with the sarcasm I really enjoy, but rubs many others like Watson the wrong way, he’s not winning friends.

Chiarelli was hung out to dry before there was any consideration of an investigation. Remember this group refused to sit with him at city council, they stood while Chiarelli sat. Watson called for his resignation with nothing but allegations. Is it possible the pendulum has swung too far the other way? Or worse yet, is the condemnation of Chiarelli based more on personality? I know first hand how vengeful Watson can be. He hated Chiarelli and would happily throw him to the wolves.

“Marleau has demonstrated that he repeatedly failed to consider or accommodate Councillor Chiarelli’s health condition, ignored the medical notes provided by the Councillor and his legal representative and misled council by omitting or glossing over important information in his final report. Mr. Marleau also provided the following FALSE statement to Council following a question asked by Councillor Cloutier,” stated Chiarelli’s prepared statement to On the City, From the Burbs.

This is really a travesty of justice. We, the public, can do better, just not sure city council can.

For more on this, look to this blog tomorrow for a timeline of what transpired between council and Chiarelli.

First Out of the Gate

No sooner had city council approved a by-election on Oct. 5 for Cumberland ward than the race’s first candidate came forward.

Contacted by On the City, From the Burbs, longtime journalist and former political staffer Patrick Uguccioni confirmed he’s ready to enter the political fray.

A by-election was made necessary by the exit of Stephen Blais to the Ontario legislature.

“This is a natural progression for me,” Uguccioni, 55, said.  

He said his desire to run was solidified following the death of a teenage boy cycling on Jeanne D’Arc Blvd. last summer.

“I became convinced a year ago when a young boy was hit on his bicycle. Somebody put up a ghost bike, and the death got all of this attention, but then it all died down. The young boy was on his way back home. I sort of grew up in this area,  At the time, there was a flurry of concern and then it goes away. This needs to be corrected. This boy was about the same age as my son. We need to concentrate on local community issues,” the father of two said.

At the time, a board member for the cyclist advocacy group Bike Ottawa said the crashes was “a worrisome trend” for the city’s bicycle commuters. “It seems recently we’ve had a lot of days where at least one or two cyclists are getting hit, and I think it points to the facts that we need to start making stronger efforts to have safer streets in Ottawa,” Érinn Cunningham was quoted as saying.

Now the managing editor of Ottawa Community News, Uguccioni  is a familiar face around Ottawa City Hall (in pre-COVID days!). He knows his way around an agenda, understands the issues and of course knows all on city council.

“I can hit the ground running. I grew up in Carlsbad Springs. “[As a community] we gravitated more east than south,” he said. 

While acknowledging his French isn’t perfect, he says he believes it’s good enough that he’ll be able to communicate with francophone residents.
He presently lives in Orleans.

“I’ve got (supporters) from every  political spectrum. This isn’t a Tory or Liberal campaign. I’ve got support from the entire political spectrum,” he said, adding former mayors Larry O’Brien and Bob Chiarelli have both offered their support.

“I learned from everyone. I’ve learned from a lot of people. You’re not a reporter if you’ve made your mind up, you see the discussion,” he said.

The last day to file is Aug. 21 by 2 p.m.

Ugly From Start to Finish

From start to finish, the story of College Coun. Rick Chiarelli and allegations of sexual impropriety have been incredibly ugly.

And as someone who has covered city hall for what seems pretty much like forever, I have found much of this entire episode in the city’s history very unsettling.

For starters, I objected from the very start of how eager Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson was in convicting Chiarelli without any sort of due process. When the story first broke, under the careful investigative pen of CBC reporter Joanne Chianello, Watson immediately called for Chiarelli’s resignation. As I’ve written, even a suspect found with a smoking gun and a bullet-ridden body beside them, under our court system, is presumed innocent until proven guilty. No such fairness at Watson’s city hall.

With a Trumpesque voice, “You’re guilty.”

Part of the issue? Chiarelli is both brighter and funnier than Watson. Chiarelli has always been very willing to use his intellect and humour against Watson.  And then, at the first council meeting where Chiarelli appeared, his colleagues refused to sit at the table alongside him. Again, that was long before anything had been proven. But Watson hates Chiarelli, and generally speaking, in the past, Chiarelli has just laughed it off.

Don’t get me wrong. I did immediately believe the women who came forward to talk about being incredibly uncomfortable over the sexual tone of the job interviews conducted by Chiarelli. And it breaks my heart to think of young women, needing work, being subjected to that. 

But where was the outrage for a female Osgoode resident bullied by her city councillor George Darouze? Where were the city councillors who profess to care so much about equality and respect when Darouze went so far as to write the city’s police chief to attempt to make trouble for the woman’s husband, employed by the police force? And when Integrity Commission Robert Marleau recommended Darouze be formally reprimanded, the report was approved by council without so much as a peep. But as most everyone who follows city hall knows by now, there’s a Jim Watson Club, and if you’re in it, there are many benefits – though selling your soul is one of the downsides.

But there’s one huge component of this that nags me the most, and I just can’t work it out in my head. Having covered city hall for so many years, there was always speculation about the relationship between many city councillors and their assistants over the years. And I just refuse to believe that most city councillors weren’t aware of it. The rumours were often rampant, married politicians sleeping with their assistants or city staff,  Yet nothing was done to change the milieu or protocols surrounding this. Why weren’t the policies changes or examined? So please, spare me the shock and dismay. This has been happening for years, and you’ve been living under a rock if you weren’t aware of it. And yes, nothing was done formally to put a stop to this.

And we have Watson talking about the brave women who came forward. I agree. They are and were brave. But please, don’t you and your council pretend you didn’t know this kind of behavior has been happening for years under your watch.

I hate hypocrisy, and this is a textbook case.

WEAR the MASK

Let’s be clear, I hate wearing a mask.

But equally as clear, what I hate even more is wearing a mask to protect those around me, only to be surrounded by most others who clearly don’t care about me or anyone else around me.

And for the life of me, it’s impossible to understand why Mayor Jim Watson hasn’t moved on this issue sooner. Worse yet, Watson tweeted recently he was going to move a motion at the July 15 council meeting to make masks mandatory. That just doesn’t make any sense. Why wait two weeks? Given that the majority of residents don’t seem at all interested in wearing a mask – and let’s keep in mind that this has been going on for months – why would the mayor wait two weeks for a life-saving vote? It’s abundantly obvious that masks help stop the spread of the virus.

The whole issue has certainly made me COVID crazy. I was in a store today, sweating in my mask (it might have been at the LCBO!) and faithfully following the floor stickers indicating proper social distancing. And then a group of about five or six female 20-somethings came up less than a foot behind me. And yes, this COVID cranky 61-year-old mask wearing woman not-so-politely pointed out where they should be standing.

They don’t just have a fear in the world, and that of course, just makes me crankier! 

It was the same thing recently at both Barrhaven’s Loblaws and Sobeys. Very few masks to be found. And of course, it’s only the very few wearing a mask who bother to social distance. Shameful.

It’s just incomprehensible so many are walking around without a care in the world – and maskless. It’s even more difficult to understand why our local government hasn’t moved on this months ago.

But as our medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches has repeated, the evidence showing masks prevent the spread of the virus, so don’t wait two weeks to don your mask. Take care of your friends, your family and your neighbours and wear the damn masks for goodness sake.

The parameters of wearing a mask are expected to be released Monday in a joint news conference by Etches and her counterparts from the four surrounding public health units in the Champlain region on Monday.