Ottawa city council voted unanimously Wednesday afternoon to impose the harshest penalty available against Coun. Rick Charelli, who was found to have violated the city's code of conduct during interviews with female job applicants.
Mayor Jim Watson encouraged his council colleagues to vote in favour of the integrity commissioner's recommendation to suspend the veteran councillor's pay for 270 days, the equivalent of more than $79,000.
"I would urge all members of council to support these recommendations by the integrity commissioner and speak out loudly against this member's disgusting and completely inappropriate behaviour," said Watson.
On Friday, integrity commissioner Robert Marleau released a report on Chiarelli's behaviour toward three job applicants who filed formal complaints against the councillor last September and October.
The women said they were asked questions, told stories and shown pictures they found inappropriate and sexual in nature.
The 270-day pay suspension — 90 days for each of the three complaints — is among the most severe sanctions to be imposed against a councillor in Ontario for contravening a code of conduct.
The city needs some time to iron out the administrative details — Chiarelli will still receive some remuneration, such as pension health benefits — so the suspension of pay won't start until Aug. 14.
During the nine months he won't be paid, Chiarelli is still expected to work for his constituents and must attend council at least once every three months.
Many council members thanked the women for filing formal complaints.
"I simply say thank you for your courage to step forward," said Coun. Riley Brockington. "I believe you … and I hope that council can make some changes going forward, and that there's some small sense of justice that can be delivered coming out of this."
When asked why he recommended the most severe punishment, Marleau said the maximum penalty is reserved for the most "egregious" violations of the code of conduct.
Chiarelli's refusal to respond to the allegations also factored into the integrity commissioner's recommendation.
"Normally in this kind of exchange, when you've got participation, you might get an explanation of sorts, you might even have remorse, you might even have an apology," said Marleau. "All I have is a public denial — an absolute public denial — which I deem to be not credible."
The rules allowed Chiarelli to take part in today's discussion, but not the vote.
At the start of the meeting, the College ward councillor said he's proceeding with an application for a judicial review to challenge the authority of the integrity commissioner, but would make no further comment.
Marleau has indicated that he will release a second report based on the formal complaints of two of Chiarelli's former staff members.
Before council discussed and voted on Marleau's recommendations, the city solicitor gave an in-camera update on yet another complaint filed against Chiarelli — this one, a separate workplace harassment complaint against Chiarelli, made under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.