Mississauga council asks integrity commissioner to probe councillor who allegedly vandalized colleague’s SUV


Published February 2, 2022 at 5:43 pm

Investigation of Mississauga councillor extended amid 'new allegations'

Mississauga’s elected leadership has asked the city’s integrity commissioner to investigate allegations that Ward 6 Coun. Ron Starr repeatedly vandalized the vehicle of Coun. Karen Ras, who resigned two weeks ago.

On Wednesday (Feb. 2), city council unanimously approved a motion that also called on Starr to take a leave of absence during the course of the investigation. Specifically, it asks integrity commissioner Robert Swayze to examine whether Starr “”ngaged in harassing behaviour towards” Ras that violated of the city’s code of conduct or respectful workplace policy.

Swayze has also been requested to attend a special council meeting on Feb. 9, or at his earliest convenience, to explain his rationale for not investigating Ras’s complaint. They also want him to explain how two sections of council code of conduct complaint protocol apply to this situation.

Ras said her sport-utility vehicle was keyed eight times over a span of two years, but did not identify a culprit.

“Neither council or the corporation of the City of Mississauga condone the alleged actions by one of our City Councillors or any harassment or bullying at city facilities,” Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said in a statement. “We take seriously the safety of all our employees, Members of Council and everyone who visits the City Hall precinct. Through this investigation, we will get the answers council and the public demand and deserve.”

The city’s media release also confirmed that staff received a report of vandalism/property damage occurring within the City Hall secure parking garage in April 2021. They said security staff followed and continued to follow all procedures. However, it said the footage is protected under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) and our Video Surveillance Policy (03-10-02).

“Specifics of this matter are best addressed by Peel Regional Police,” the release said.

City councillors are not employees of the corporation of the City of Mississauga. They are governed by a councillor code of conduct. Complaints about contraventions of the code are be made to the integrity commissioner. Matters between Councillors are dealt with through the code, and where criminal activities are involved, through Peel Regional Police.

This would fall under protections of elected office covered in the Ontario Municipal Act. That distinction has come up while cities have been debating mandatory COVID-19 vaccination programs from municipal workers that do not cover elected officials.

Only the electorate can remove elected members of council from office,” was how Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger recently explained the difference in workplace protections for councillors during his city’s vaccination policy debate. .

Ras, who had been a councillor since 2014, has moved on to communications director role with the Mississauga-based Electrical Safety Authority. On Jan. 24, she dropped strong hints about “workplace issues” factoring into her choice to leave office.

Starr is in his third term. He has faced an integrity commissioner investigation at least once in his career.

In 2011, then-integrity commissioner George Rust-D’Eye was asked to take up a “a “preventative investigation” because Starr’s daughter, Michelle Starr, sent city staff a business solicitation letter. The younger Starr was running a business development firm that her father had helmed. In that instance, Ron Starr was cleared of any conflict.

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