Chiarelli denies sexual harassment allegations, claims he is target of political attack
OTTAWA - College Ward Coun. Rick Chiarelli is claiming he is the target of a coordinated political attack in a lengthy statement defending himself from allegations of sexual harassment and lewd commentary.
Several women have made comments in the media alleging Chiarelli spoke to them at work or in job interviews in a sexually explicit manner.
None of the allegations against Chiarelli have been tested in court and he is facing no charges.
To date, his only defense has been through a comment by his lawyer to the CBC, which first reported the allegations, to say he denies the accusations as “spurious.”
Chiarelli issued a statement late Thursday morning to formally deny the allegations.
“I can say, without reservation, that I have never treated a member of my staff (including job candidates) in a sexually harassing, discriminatory, or inappropriate ‘gender-based’ fashion,” Chiarelli said.
He says he was delayed in issuing a response or replying to media requests because of “well-documented and objectively verifiable health issues since the middle of August.” He also says he’s been restricted from speaking because of the “expectation of confidentiality that is part of the complaint process.”
Chiarelli claims he is the target of a political campaign to discredit him.
“People should know that I formally retained legal counsel in July of this year, after learning that I was being targeted over my attempts to bring greater transparency to the LRT procurement process. I had no idea, at the time, of the direction that these political attacks might take,” he says. “We were made aware of one of my political adversaries attempting to persuade a number of women to join an organized group to speak negatively about me.”
Chiarelli claimed some of the women who have come forward publicly are part of this alleged group.
That claim has not been verified and Chiarelli did not name a particular political opponent or offer evidence that his accusers are co-ordinating against him.
"He had to launch back, he felt cornered, he felt attacked," said the city's women's liasion, Councillor Theresa Kavanagh.
"This sounds like the reaction of someone who felt like he was on the defense."
He also claims the allegations he’s facing are not meant to be handled by the City’s integrity commissioner, but through the Ontario Human Rights Code.
“All I ask is for some accommodation of my current medical condition, and for a fair and appropriate process of adjudication,” Chiarelli says.
Chiarelli also warns that others are vulnerable to this kind of 'attack'.
"The same script could be weaponized to attack anyone, at any time, with the same ruthless speed and efficiency."
Victoria Laaber was one of the women who has publicly claimed Chiarelli made comments about her clothing and told her to go to strip clubs during work hours.
"I didn't know any better", Laaber told Evan Solomon on 580 CFRA.
"The way it was framed was that you had no option, because he could threaten your job at a moment's notice.'
One resident in Chiarelli's ward believes the community deserves an explanation.
"This gets tiring, when is enough, enough?" said Laverne Barretto.
"He can deny it all he wants but how many women have come forth?"
Another resident believes Chiarelli deserves a fair process.
"He has every right to defend himself," said Robert Kennedy.
"I don't think he's getting a fair shake unless he has that opportunity to defend himself."
None of the allegations have been tested in court or any forum.
- With files from Christina Succi