Mississauga City councillor found to have engaged in harassment, may face 60 days’ loss of pay


Published June 30, 2022 at 5:04 pm

Investigation of Mississauga councillor extended amid 'new allegations'

Mississauga City councillor Ron Starr has been found to have “engaged in harassment” related to an incident in which a fellow councillor’s SUV was vandalized, a City of Mississauga investigation has concluded.

The long-awaited final report from the City’s Integrity Commissioner Robert Swayze was made public today (June 30) after months of delays.

He’ll officially present his findings to City council next Wednesday (July 6). Council then has 90 days in which to respond to the report.

In his report, Swayze found that the Ward 6 councillor scratched former Ward 2 councillor Karen Ras’ vehicle on April 13, 2021 “and that the single incident of scratching constitutes workplace harassment” under the City’s respectful workplace policy.

Swayze is recommending that Starr’s pay be suspended for 60 days.

“I have decided to recommend a relatively higher suspension of compensation paid to him as a member of council because his action was mindless vandalism and devoid of common decency,” Swayze said in his report.

Starr, who recently registered to run again in this fall’s municipal election, has denied that he vandalized Ras’ SUV.

The alleged vandalism was captured on surveillance video, according to Swayze’s findings.

The footage, according to Swayze, shows Starr parking his vehicle next to Ras’ SUV and then crouching down in front of it and turning to face the grill of his former colleague’s vehicle.

In a statement from Starr in Swayze’s report, the councillor contends he crouched down to pick up a piece of paper and did not key Ras’ SUV.

Starr was first elected to council in 1978 and after a lengthy absence he returned in 2010.

Swayze’s report has been delayed several times since he began his probe in February. Most recently, he told council on April 20 that his findings, scheduled to be delivered on that day, would be delayed indefinitely after new information in the investigation was received.

He said at the time that the investigation was still ongoing and that he couldn’t tell councillors much beyond that.

Swayze was directed by council in February to look into allegations that Starr repeatedly harassed and bullied Ras over a two-year period ending in early 2021.

Ras, who had served on council since 2014, resigned at the end of January. She said initially it was a move based on a better job opportunity and family concerns, but later acknowledged the prime reason for leaving was her experience with her former colleague.

Starr, who in February agreed to take a leave of absence while the investigation was conducted, returned to council and committee meetings not long after that, which was his right.

At a special meeting of City council on Feb. 9, Swayze told councillors that he initially decided against investigating the matter last year because it had been already probed by Peel Regional Police, who laid no charges.

Council also passed a resolution at that meeting that “clarifies and strengthens” the municipality’s Council Code of Conduct regarding investigative powers of the integrity commissioner.

Essentially, the resolution states that matters related to the Code can and will be investigated by the integrity commissioner even if police are also probing the matter.

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