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Mississauga councillor denies harassment allegations, seeks injunction to block report

Councillor Ron Starr is seen in this file image. Screenshot/City of Mississauga

The Mississauga, Ont., councillor accused of vandalizing a former colleague’s car has issued a statement denying the allegations and saying he will fight them in court.

In a statement, Coun. Ron Starr said he had not spoken publicly during an investigation into allegations about his conduct. “I cannot stay silent any further,” Starr said.

It was alleged in February that Starr had vandalized fellow councillor Karen Ras’ car at city hall, and that the matter allegedly contributed to her decision to resign her council seat.

Mississauga’s integrity commissioner, Robert Swayze, originally declined to investigate Ras’ allegations. After media reporting and pressure from councillors in February, the integrity commission began to investigate. That process has not yet concluded.

“I will reserve my comment only to state that I have grave concerns about the way this investigation has been handled by both city council and the Integrity Commissioner as I do not believe that this process has been fair and impartial,” Starr said in his statement.

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Starr’s lawyers would not confirm to Global News if the councillor had seen a draft copy of Swayze’s report.

“Given that this matter is now before the courts, we are not at liberty to comment any further regarding this matter at this time,” barrister Adriana Di Biase said in an email.

At council’s general committee meeting on June 1, it was revealed that Starr had requested a court injunction to halt the release of the report.

“Verbal update regarding correspondence from Bisceglia and Associates dated May 31, 2022, regarding a potential injunction to restrain council from receiving the report of the integrity commissioner,” Coun. Pat Saito said at the beginning of the meeting, reading an added agenda item to discuss the legal move in closed session.

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Details of the allegations that Starr repeatedly vandalized Ras’ car over a period of many months were first reported by CBC News and the Toronto Star in February.

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Ras told the CBC that she resigned from her role after her car was repeatedly vandalized and the integrity commissioner and Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie didn’t address her concerns.

The CBC reported that Ras’ car was allegedly keyed eight times over two years, and the alleged suspect identified by police was Starr.

In a statement previously sent to Global News, Peel Regional Police confirmed an investigation had taken place but that it was not proceeding with charges against Starr.

Peel police spokesperson Akhil Mooken confirmed officers conducted an investigation “into an allegation of vandalism/property damage occurring within the city hall secure parking garage in April 2021.”

Mooken said in consultation with the complainant and Crown’s office, it was decided that no charges would be laid. Further information wasn’t disclosed by Mooken.

Peel police did not respond to a question in time for publication asking if the status of its investigation had changed.

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In February, after the story was first reported, Mississauga councillors passed a motion asking Starr to take a leave of absence until the investigation into his alleged conduct was concluded. Starr returned to his active role since the request — and before the investigation concluded.

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He was present at June 1’s general committee meeting but declared a conflict before his request for an injunction was discussed.

“As I am having the actions of city council and the Integrity Commissioner reviewed before a court of law, I do not intend to comment any further with respect to this matter at this time,” Starr’s statement said.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie came out strongly at a press conference in February after the allegations were first published.

“I am disappointed and frankly very angry about the disturbing allegations that Councillor Ron Starr repeatedly vandalized former Councillor Karen Ras’ car in a secure parking garage at city hall,” Crombie said.

“It’s also sad that this was one of the reasons that led to Councillor Karen Ras’ resignation from council. This is flagrant bullying and harassment and has no place at the City of Mississauga or in any workplace.”

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City officials confirmed in February that staff received a report of vandalism/property damage in the secure city hall parking garage in April 2021.

“City of Mississauga security staff followed and continue to follow all procedures and cooperate with Peel Regional Police in their investigations when asked to do so,” officials said.

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“This includes providing video footage if requested. The City does not publicly comment on the specifics of security incidents or disclose the content of security tapes as the footage is protected under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and our Video Surveillance Policy.”

If they are found to have violated the code conduct, a councillor’s pay can be suspended for 90 days. They can also be removed from committees roles but not council itself.

Starr said in his statement that he “wholeheartedly condemn(s) harassment of any form” and denied allegations made against him.

— With files from Global News’ Ryan Rocca

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