Chiarelli’s office says Twitter account was hacked after woman posts strange text exchange

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Chiarelli’s office says Twitter account was hacked after woman posts strange text exchange
Messages included offer of a government-paid trip to Europe.

Author of the article:Jon Willing
Publishing date:Sep 03, 2021 • 19 hours ago • 4 minute read
A 2020 file photo of College ward Coun. Rick Chiarelli.
A 2020 file photo of College ward Coun. Rick Chiarelli. PHOTO BY TONY CALDWELL /Postmedia
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Coun. Rick Chiarelli’s office said his Twitter account was accessed without authorization after a private exchange with a Chicago comedian suggested the Ottawa councillor was offering to take her on an all-expenses-paid European trip surfaced on the social media website Thursday.

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The bizarre direct-message conversation, which Cassidy Kulhanek posted publicly on Twitter through screen shots, included comments from the person operating Chiarelli’s account asking if she wanted “to do business,” speculating that she would do well “helping deliver our main message.”


Chiarelli, the long-time councillor for College ward, is at the centre of a harassment scandal that produced a damning integrity investigation into his alleged lewd behaviour toward former staff and women whom he interviewed for jobs in his office. Last year, council suspended Chiarelli’s salary for 450 days and he challenged the integrity commissioner’s jurisdiction in divisional court, which has not yet released a decision.

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Another sanction imposed by council was severely restricting Chiarelli’s access to his office budget.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Kulhanek, 28, said the Chiarelli account first sent her a direct message last Saturday.

“I didn’t respond,” Kulhanek said. “He messaged me again a couple days in a row and I didn’t respond to any of those and then I finally responded (Thursday).”

In between the messages, Kulhanek contacted her friends and flagged the messages from Chiarelli’s account.

“I was so confused by what he wanted from me that I sent a screen shot of it, the initial messages, to some friends and was like, ‘What does this guy want from me?'” Kulhanek said.

One of Kulhanek’s friends lives in Canada and that woman filled in Kulhanek about Chiarelli’s background.

Armed with that information, Kulhanek decided to continue the exchange with Chiarelli’s account.

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In the exchange, the Chiarelli account said his staffers didn’t want to go on a trip to Spain because “they don’t want to go anywhere with topless sunbathing.” When Kulhanek asked how that would be relevant to the trip and if he wanted to go sunbathing, the Chiarelli account responded, “Sure. You?/I mean, wouldn’t you want to if you were going?”

The person writing from the Chiarelli account said it would be a free trip for Kulhanek: “le (sic) flight, accommodation, food and reasonable amount of drink/And a fee for doing what’s expected.”

According to a message from the Chiarelli account, one purpose of the trip was to “convince some film people to shoot in Canada.”

When Kulhanek asked how she would be paid for the work, the person writing from Chiarelli’s account said she wouldn’t require a work visa and could give him a “carefully worded” invoice. “I would likely pay you out of pocket and I would later be reimbursed,” the Chiarelli account wrote.

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The person writing from Chiarelli’s account disclosed his integrity case to Kulhanek and his court challenge, alleging that a ruling was expected next week.

When Kulhanek asked why Chiarelli would offer to use government money to take her to Europe and go to topless beaches when he was in the middle of a sexual harassment scandal, the Chiarelli account said she “misrepresented everything.”

Chiarelli’s office said his Twitter account had been inappropriately accessed and staff were working to change the password.

Chantal Lebel, Chiarelli’s director of strategic affairs and communications, emailed a statement saying office staff were “largely responsible for the management” of social media accounts.

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“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,” Lebel said. “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.”

Lebel also pointed out that Chiarelli didn’t have the power to hire staff, contractors or volunteers and he didn’t have oversight of his ward budget for the rest of the term ending in 2022. He also doesn’t have authority to file travel expenses.

“Additionally, Councillor 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,” Lebel said.
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“We have reached out to the Twitter platform to determine the source of the unauthorized access to our account.”
As of Thursday afternoon, no one from Ottawa’s municipal government had reached out to Kulhanek. “No government officials,” Kulhanek said, “just journalists.”

Kulhanek said she hadn’t considered informing the City of Ottawa’s integrity commissioner about the exchange. However, Coun. Catherine McKenney tweeted that the exchange “has been reported to the City’s Integrity Commissioner.”

“I was just dealt a strange hand this morning and I decided to play it,” Kulhanek said.

Receiving a random direct message wasn’t out of the ordinary until she realized who the account belonged to.

“I get lots of men slipping into my DMs,” Kulhanek said. “Not usually elected politicians.”

jwilling@postmedia.com

twitter.com/JonathanWilling