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.