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Divisional Court finds Ottawa City Council exhibited bias in its role as adjudicator when reviewing and acting on the report of the Integrity Commissioner with respect to the investigation into complaints filed against an Ottawa City Councillor

Ontario

,

Canada

Ottawa City Councillor Wins Pyrrhic Victory on Judicial Review of Sanctions Imposed by Council In Chiarelli v. Ottawa (City of), 2021 ONSC 8256 (CanLII), the Integrity Commissioner conducted an investigation into six complaints filed against Ottawa City Councillor Chiarelli and filed a report of his findings with Ottawa City Council. City Council accepted the findings that Councillor Chiarelli had engaged in acts of misconduct and imposed the maximum penalty under the Municipal Act, 2001, a 270-day suspension of his salary. The Council also passed a resolution calling on Councillor Chiarelli to resign.Councillor Chiarelli applied to the Divisional Court for judicial review of the investigation and the sanctions imposed by City Council. He claimed that the Integrity Commissioner lacked the jurisdiction to investigate the matter, showed bias against Councillor Chiarelli and denied Councillor Chiarelli procedural fairness. Specifically, Councillor Chiarelli claimed that he suffered from severe health issues at the time of the investigation and the Integrity Commissioner failed to reasonably accommodate his health condition.Councillor Chiarelli also claimed that City Council exhibited bias against him by making public statements calling for his resignation and supporting the complainants before they had received the report of the Integrity Commissioner.Councillor Chiarelli’s claims against the Integrity Commissioner were unsuccessful. The Councillor failed to make an allegation of bias to the Integrity Commissioner himself, which the Court found was fatal to his pursuit of the issue on judicial review. The Court also found that the Integrity Commissioner followed the investigation protocols and made appropriate accommodations to Councillor Chiarelli in respect of his health condition.The Court found that certain public statements made by the mayor and various City Councillors exhibited bias against Councillor Chiarelli and quashed the sanction imposed by City Council. Councillor Chiarelli sought an order prohibiting City Council from taking further steps against him, but the Court found that this would be inappropriate given the findings of the Integrity Commissioner that Councillor Chiarelli had engaged in misconduct.The appropriate remedy would typically be to remit the matter back to a new decisionmaker. However, in this case where the decisionmaker was City Council and there was no other decisionmaker was available, the Court found it was appropriate to impose its own sanction. The Court ordered the suspension of Councillor Chiarelli’s salary for an aggregate of 270 days, which was the same penalty originally imposed by City Council. The Court also ordered that while Councillor Chiarelli was entitled to costs of $20,000 from City Council, he was required to pay costs of $40,000 to the Integrity Commissioner.

April 14, 2022
Chiarelli v. Ottawa (City of), 2021 ONSC 8256 (CanLII)