EXCLUSIVE: Chiarelli says he will be vindicated
Embattled city councillor Rick Chiarelli spoke out on Wednesday, denying allegations of sexual harassment against him and saying he believes he will be vindicated.
Chiarelli’s exclusive interview with CTV News was his first since being accused of making inappropriate comments toward female staffers and prospective employees. The women accuse Chiarelli of making comments about their appearances and their clothes.
The College ward councillor surprised his colleagues Wednesday by showing up for budget discussions after three months on extended medical leave.
With his wife Lida at his side, Chiarelli said it was a “strange feeling” to be back at council.
He said he denies the allegations against him, adding: “And I also know how to get evidence. So we’ll have enough to present to people.”
In a written statement last month , Chiarelli suggested the allegations are an elaborate attempt to smear him, after he asked questions about the city’s LRT procurement and launch.
On Wednesday, Chiarelli wouldn’t elaborate on that suggestion, or directly respond to several questions about the allegations, saying he wants to address them “in the proper forum.”
“I can’t really discuss the allegations,” he said. “I want to; there are a lot of things I want to say and a lot of information I want to give. But at this point, we have to respect the process. … I can’t really lay out the evidence right now.”
Many of Chiarelli’s council colleagues were surprised he attended Wednesday’s meeting.
Several weeks ago, despite a note from the councillor’s doctor, council voted to deny him an extended medical leave. If he did not attend a council session before the end of November, he risked losing his seat.
Chiarelli said there are misconceptions about his health issues that he hasn’t been able to address. He said the health issues mean he must limit his activity the next while.
Chiarelli’s wife Lida, who accompanied him on Wednesday, said she is proud of how her husband has handled the situation, and they have received many supportive messages.
She also said she “can’t guess” what’s behind the women’s allegations.
“I don’t know who they are, and the ones I do know, I’ve known very well, and they never said anything like that to me,” she said. “When they were at my house, they were with us, nothing like that ever happened.”
Some city staffers greeted Chiarelli with a silent protest outside the council chambers Wednesday. Mayor Jim Watson also said the situation has made him and his council colleagues extremely uncomfortable.
“He’d indicated that he was not coming, then we heard a rumour that he was coming. And I think you saw by the reaction that most members of council did not want to be seen near him quite frankly, myself included,” Watson said.
“It’s very frustrating for his constituents. It’s very frustrating for his colleagues, and for the staff. Is he back at work, is he not back at work? It’s a very unseemly situation.”
Several complaints against Chiarelli have been filed with the city’s integrity commissioner.
Several councillors have called for Chiarelli’s resignation. But he said he believes he can regain his colleagues’ respect upon his return.
“Politics is different than a lot of other things. In politics, a whole array of things matter above whether your personally like somebody.”
Chiarelli was also asked what he would say to constituents whose views of him have changed.
“I’ve represented you in one form or another since 1982. If that hasn’t proven anything to you, then I don’t know what can.”
-With files from CTV’s Joanne Schnurr