Ottawa councillor denies sending inappropriate messages on Twitter
OTTAWA -- Embattled Ottawa Coun. Rick Chiarelli is facing criticism again, after a woman in Chicago says she received sexually suggestive messages from the councillor's official Twitter account.
Chiarelli's office tells CTV News Ottawa his Twitter account was hacked and he did not send the direct messages on the social media site.
There are at least three women sharing similar messages allegedly from Chiarelli's Twitter account referencing a trip to Spain, one of them including mentions of topless beaches. The messages were sent over the span of several days.
Mayor Jim Watson's office said Friday he has asked the integrity commissioner to open an investigation into the messages.
The first woman to go public was Cass Kulhanek, a comedian from Chicago.
Kulhanek says she has no connection to Ottawa or the veteran College Ward councillor, but says she received a message from Chiarelli's account stating he was a politician and referencing media work she could do in Europe.
Kulhanek tweeted the images publicly on Thursday afternoon. The direct messages reference topless sunbathing, and a person saying, "I want fun! Not just work."
"I mean I thought it was peculiar that he immediately made a note of wanting to go to places that had topless beaches, or topless sunbathing, because that's not my initial thought when I think about Europe," said Kulhanek in an interview with CTV News Ottawa.
"I think about lots of other things first. He immediately started talking about topless sunbathing and how his staffer didn't want to go places that had topless sunbathing or had night life, late dinners, things like that. So it seemed kind of clear from the start there were ulterior motives or something."
Kulhanek says she can't prove the messages came from the councillor, but said she decided to share them in support of other women who have previously alleged the Councillor used inappropriate and/or sexual harassing language in the workplace.
Two other women, including at least one from Ottawa, shared similar messages from Chiarelli's account.
In a statement to CTV News Ottawa Thursday evening, Chiarelli's office said the councillor's Twitter account was hacked.
"Please note that it appears that we have experienced a breach in our Twitter access and our passwords are being updated as we speak. Our staff is largely responsible for the management of our Social Media accounts including Twitter, Facebook as well as our website," said the statement from Chantal Lebel, director of Strategic Affairs and Communications in Chiarelli's office.
"Our office has conducted an analysis of the recent usage of our Social Media channels mainly accessed through a third-party app as well as a review of the alleged messages which seem to have been copy pasted to multiple users. We have determined the writing pattern and poor grammar to be inconsistent with that of the Councillor’s. As such we have proceeded to a review of our security protocols."
Chiraelli's office says it has reached out to Twitter to determine the source of the unauthorized access to his account.
The statement also addressed the contents of the direct messages on Twitter.
"Coun. Chiarelli currently does not have the authority to hire/fire staff, contractors/vendors or volunteers nor does he have oversight of the Ward 8 Operating Budget until the end of the term. He is also restricted from incurring any travel-related expenses and as per the Dec 2020 report by the City Clerk it was anticipated that there would be no reason for the Ward 8 Councillor, his staff to travel given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic nor that any travel would be authorized," said the statement.
"Additionally, Coun. Chiarelli has not travelled since undergoing a quadruple bypass open-heart surgery in December of 2019 nor does he have any plans to travel in the near future with the recent passing of his father-in-law, his daughter’s upcoming wedding in a few weeks and the birth of his first grandchild later this fall."
Last year, Ottawa's Integrity Commissioner ruled twice that Chiarelli breached sections of the Code of Conduct for Members of Council for alleged improper conduct involving two former staff members and three women applying for jobs in his office. Chiarelli has denied all allegations relating to that matter.