A former Greater Toronto Area councilor said she suddenly quit last month after her car was repeatedly vandalized and city officials, including the mayor and integrity commissioner, failed to address his safety concerns or fully investigate the alleged culprit.
Although Karen Ras wouldn’t say who allegedly entered her car eight times in two years, CBC News has learned that a fellow counselor has been identified as a suspect.
“Once I knew I couldn’t get a resolution from the Integrity Commission, I knew my heart wasn’t going to be in that role anymore, because there was no more avenues to research,” Ras, who served as a councilor in Mississauga, Ont., for seven years, told CBC News. The city of over 800,000 people is adjacent to Toronto.
“It’s a matter of personal safety. Was it going to get worse? What next? And it was really deflating when there was no recourse.”
The councilor was allegedly caught on camera by city hall security staff using his wrench to scrape paint off the front of Ras’s Kia SUV in April 2021, according to sources with direct knowledge of the situation.
CBC News learned the adviser’s identity and contacted him by phone, text and email. CBC News is not naming him because he did not immediately respond to questions about the allegations.
It is unclear why he allegedly damaged the councilman’s vehicle.
8 incidents documented
Ras first noticed damage to her vehicle in the spring of 2019, she said. Over the next two years, she documented eight separate incidents. Each time, his vehicle was parked in a private lot reserved for council members.
Ras reported the incidents to the police, but nothing came of it until city hall security personnel installed a surveillance camera in the garage, the sources said. In April 2021, the camera captured a man who appeared to be a sitting adviser vandalizing his car.
The city said it received a report of vandalism in the secure parking lot at the time, but does not comment on “details of the security incidents.”
Peel Regional Police confirmed they had investigated the incident, but decided not to press charges last summer “in consultation with the complainant and the Crown’s office”, the spokesman for the department said. Peel Regional Police, Akhil Mooken, in an email to CBC News.
“Since no charges have been filed, I am unable to share specific details regarding the investigation,” he said.
The councilor allegedly responsible for the alleged vandalism paid around $1,250 for damage to Ras’s car, which was repaired in August, the sources said.
Integrity commissioner refuses to investigate
Ras said knowing the police investigation was closed, she turned to city integrity commissioner Robert Swayze in late September. He refused to investigate.
Swayze is responsible for investigating complaints about counselor behavior that may violate Mississauga’s Code of Conduct. He declined to comment on the allegations, citing confidentiality concerns, and would not respond to questions about whether his office planned to investigate now that police have decided not to press charges.
Mississauga code of Conduct states that all advisers must treat each other “appropriately and without abuse, bullying or intimidation and ensure that their work environment is free from discrimination and harassment”.
It also states that all complaints involving board members who violate this Respectful Workplace Policy must be referred to the Integrity Commissioner. If a complaint is of a criminal nature, the Integrity Commissioner is required to advise the person who filed the complaint to inform the appropriate police force.
Ras said Mayor Bonnie Crombie did not address the alleged bullying.
“Yes, she was aware of what was going on. I think there are opportunities for our leaders to try to build a more conciliatory environment,” she told CBC News.
CBC News asked Crombie if she was aware of the incident and what action, if any, she took in response.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Crombie said the mayor became aware of an “alleged incident of vandalism” in the spring of 2021 and cooperated fully with the investigation. She declined to comment further.
Initially, Ras released a statement on January 17, saying she would step down from her seat 11 days later due, in part, to online abuse and workplace issues.
In her interview with CBC News on Tuesday, Ras said she decided to share more details publicly after receiving messages from other female politicians and political staff thanking her for her statement.
“If we want to bring more women into these roles, then something has to change,” Ras said.