Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

WARNING: This story contains content that some may find disturbing. Discretion is advised.

One of the plaintiffs who made allegations of sexual harassment against College Coun. Rick Chiarelli is now suing the city of Ottawa for allegedly not living up to his expectations as an employer and allowing the councilor to promote a “hostile and poisoned” work environment.

Stephanie Dobbs, a former assistant to the struggling alderman, is claiming $ 325,000 in damages and lost income toward the city in connection with her experience working at Chiarelli’s office.

In a statement of claim filed on January 11, 2021, Dobb’s attorney Todd Barney accuses the city of violating its own policies regarding harassment in the workplace and staffing as well as the Ontario Human Rights Code. The complaint also alleges that the Ottawa City Council violated its own code of conduct in Dobbs’ case.

The allegations in the allegation statement are not proven in court.

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But Ottawa’s integrity commissioner Robert Marleau, who investigated allegations against Chiarelli from former employees and job applicants for the councilor’s office, concluded in two reports in 2020 that the allegations from Dobbs and other complainants were substantiated.

Read more:

The Ottawa Council is urging Chiarelli to resign following a condemnatory integrity report

Dobbs was referred to as “Complainant 2” throughout Marleau’s second report, which was released last fall. The report outlined several allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace, including that Chiarelli made inappropriate comments about the bodies of female employees and would ask them to “go without a burner.”

The councilor did not cooperate with Marleau’s investigation and has denied all charges against him.

City attorney David White would not comment on the charges Friday.

“In accordance with its standard method of litigation, the City of Ottawa does not comment publicly on cases before the courts,” White said in a statement to Global News.

News of the trial was first reported by Citizens of Ottawa.

The statement of claim describes the alleged abuse Dobbs was subjected to, and says Chiarelli promoted a “hostile and poisoned” work environment. The city is “directly and indirectly responsible” for the damage she faced, according to the case.

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The allegation says Dobbs was “subjected to many harassment and sexual harassment, very negative, abusive and traumatic experiences and misconduct” while in Chiarelli’s employment.

It traces her experiences from applying for the position in 2015, where she says she was asked to reveal personal secrets during the interview to win the councillor’s trust, until 2018, when she says she was forced to go on medical leave as as a result of her experiences at the College Ward office.


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Dobbs became ill and suicidal towards the end of her term in office, the claim states, forcing her to take medical leave and affect her ability to earn a living during her employment in the city as well as afterwards.

Although council members in Ottawa are responsible for hiring decisions, hiring contracts for councilors are created through the city itself.

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The allegation claims that the lack of standardized recruitment, interviews, and recruitment policies for assistants “created and alienated the potential for an uncivilized, disrespectful, toxic, and poisoned work environment for councilors’ office staff.”

The city council moved to reinforce some of its shortcomings around the process of hiring councilors’ assistants last year in the wake of Marleau’s results.

The council adopted a proposal in July 2020 where a third party from the city council office or human resources would be present in all future interviews, as well as to ensure that all such interviews take place on a municipal basis.

The council has anchored Chiarelli’s 450 days’ salary, deprived him of committee duties and unanimously urged him to resign from his post, but he continues to serve in the current term of office.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

Crisis Services Canada‘s free helpline provides 24-7 support at 1-833-456-4566.

Children Helpline operates a toll-free telephone line at 1-800-668-6868 with 24-7 support for young people as well as Crisis text line, which can be reached by sending SMS to HOME to 686868.

It’s free Hope for well-being helpline provides 24-7 support to indigenous people at 1-855-242-3310. Online chat services are also available.

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Trans Livline operates a free peer support hotline for trans and interrogation of people at 1-877-330-6366.

For an overview of support services in your area, visit Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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