Ron Starr picks apart integrity commissioner report, calls guilty finding biased and unfair, ‘simply wrong’
Mississauga Councillor Ron Starr is hitting back at the City’s Integrity Commissioner Robert Swayze, after a guilty finding was released last week in the harassment case involving allegations made by former council member Karen Ras.
“After 5 months of investigation, the Integrity Commissioner’s report contains no evidence whatsoever of any interaction between myself and Karen Ras,” Starr wrote in a response released to the Canadian Press Thursday evening. “The Integrity Commissioner’s conclusion is simply that ‘it is more likely than not’ that I scratched Ras’ vehicle. I maintain that I never scratched Ras’ vehicle. There is no evidence that I harassed her. The standard that the Integrity Commissioner has used to find me guilty of such conduct is simply inappropriate.”
Starr was accused by Ras of keying her car numerous times in a City Hall parking lot before she stepped down from her council position early in the year.
Swayze found him guilty of scratching the car on April 13 last year, despite acknowledging that video evidence used in the case does not show the councillor actually making physical contact with the car using an instrument that would cause the scratches.
Starr said the investigation was “biased and unfair” adding “The Integrity Commissioner’s findings are simply wrong.”
Starr puts forward specific claims that, if true, call Swayze’s findings and investigative process into question.
Swayze claimed in his findings that a Peel Police officer was told by Starr’s lawyer his client admitted he was guilty, without providing details of the alleged admission, such as what specific act the officer was allegedly referring to.
Starr denies any admission of guilt regarding the allegation he scratched Ras’s car.
“Even though I have always denied the allegation, I immediately resolved this matter with Ras privately, as we are encouraged to do by our Code of Conduct,” he wrote in his response to Swayze’s report. “I want to be clear that I paid to repair Ras’ vehicle on the advice of my legal counsel, Gary Mooney and not because I caused the damage alleged. To clear my name, I provided the Integrity Commissioner with a statement from my lawyer, Mr. Mooney who confirmed that I always denied causing the alleged damage and that neither he nor I ever admitted to me being guilty of these allegations. My lawyer further confirmed he gave me the advice to pay for the damage as it was a quick way to resolve the issue, without having to defend the false allegations against me.”
Swayze’s report will be dealt with Wedndesday during Mississauga’s Council meeting, when members can choose to vote on a punishment for Starr. Swayze recommended 60 days loss of pay, the maximum Council can hand down under Ontario’s Municipal Act is 90.
It’s common for councillors to have their own legal representation present to pose questions about a finding against them.
Amid the controversy surrounding the allegations of harassment, Councillor Ron Starr announced he will be seeking reelection in the October municipal election.
After the release of Swayze’s finding Ras told The Pointer in an email she is pleased with the decision.
“The conclusion of the Integrity Commissioner speaks for itself… and I look forward to the deliberations of Mississauga Council on July 6. I trust they will come to the same conclusion and accept Commissioner Swayze’s recommendation.”
Former councillor Karen Ras stepped down in January citing another job opportunity, workplace and personal issues as the reasons for her abrupt resignation.
(Joel Wittnebel/ The Pointer files)
Starr’s written response raises many questions about Swayze’s conclusions.
“[I]t is compelling that after I released my statement to the Integrity Commissioner explaining my response to the false allegation made against me, at no point did the Integrity Commissioner:
ask me for any clarification of any matters, or ask to interview me or speak with me directly;
ask for any clarification on any matters, or ask to interview or speak with my lawyer, Mr. Mooney directly;
ask for any clarification on any matters, or ask to interview or speak directly with any of my 4 experts;
commission any expert reports of his own on any defences raised by me in this investigation; and
commission any expert reports which contradict the opinions advanced by the expert opinions I presented to the Integrity Commissioner as part of my defence.”
Swayze did not provide a comment to The Pointer but did reference Section 223.5 of the Municipal Act which states: “The Commissioner and every person acting under the instructions of the Commissioner shall preserve secrecy with respect to all matters that come to his or her knowledge in the course of his or her duties under this Part.”
Starr said Swayze has not allowed the full public disclosure of expert evidence obtained in the case.
“The Integrity Commissioner also refused to allow me to fully disclose publicly the independent expert reports which I obtained which in my view exonerate me of the false allegations made against me.”
Starr says the expert evidence includes analysis by an accident reconstructionist “who confirms that the video (footage obtained from a CCTV camera in the parking garage) does not show me causing the damage and accepts my evidence as credible.”
Starr has registered to run for reelection in Ward 6 ahead of the October 24 municipal race.
On Wednesday Mississauga City Council members will have an opportunity to comment on the report and ask Swayze questions. Council members will decide what punishment, if any, will be handed down to their colleague, unless they choose to delay such a decision.
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