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Former Mississauga councillor seeking $2.5M in counterclaim against city and former colleague who claims he harassed her
Nov. 17, 2023
Joshua Freeman

A former Mississauga city councillor accused of harassing his council colleague to the point where she quit her job has launched a countersuit seeking $2.5 million from her and the city.

Ron Starr has been involved in ongoing litigation involving himself, the city and former councillor Karen Ras since Ras launched a lawsuit against Starr and the city last year.

Ras, a former Ward 2 councillor, resigned from her job in January 2022, saying that she had been unable to address "workplace issues" in her role.

Ras later revealed that her car had been repeatedly scratched while parked at city hall over a number of years. She said that she had been the victim of harassment by then Ward 6 councillor Ron Starr and that her efforts to have the matter dealt with by the city had been unsuccessful.

A report from the city's integrity commissioner later in 2022 found that Starr scratched her car on at least one occasion in April 2021.

Council voted in July 2022 to suspend Starr's pay for two months as a result of the findings.

Ras subsequently filed a lawsuit against Starr and the city in November 2022, claiming that Starr had harassed her and that the city had failed to adhere to its own code of conduct for ensuring a harassment-free work environment.

In the suit, she said she had repeatedly tried to have the city's integrity commissioner investigate, but he declined, saying that it was not within his jurisdiction. The claim said the city's failure to deal with the matter amounted to "constructive dismissal."

Her suit sought $500,000 from the city for bad faith, moral, and punitive damages as well as 10 months' pay for the remainder of her term, and $100,000 in damages from Starr for intentional infliction of mental suffering.

The suit said it was unclear why Ras had allegedly been targeted and speculated that it may have had to do with Starr's loss of several key votes related to obtaining appointments and "coveted positions," particularly two which had remunerations associated with them.

The allegations in the suit have not been proven in court.

A defence filed by Starr in August 2023 denied the allegations in Ras' claim, said that she had not sustained any damages or harm, and said that Starr had in fact been targeted by Ras, the city and the integrity commissioner, Robert Swayze.

The statement claims the city, the integrity commissioner and Ras acted "in concert" to cause him personal reputational and financial harm and that they were "motivated in order to target Starr in a bid to sabotage his re-election as City Councillor for his ward in Mississauga."

Starr lost his seat in the municipal election last year.

The statement added that Starr believes Swayze was "under undue duress" to make a finding against him.

It asks that Ras' claim be dismissed and in a counterclaim, seeks $1.25 million in damages from Ras, as well as $1.25 million from the city. Starr is also seeking costs and interest.

The counterclaim also says that while Starr denies Ras has sustained any damages or harm, any damage or harm she may have sustained "were caused strictly and solely by the acts, omissions and/or negligence" of Ras, the city and/or the integrity commissioner.

In his counterclaim, he also denies that he paid Ras damages for the scratches on her vehicle in an arrangement mediated by Peel police after Ras filed a complaint.

Starr's lawyer did not return an email and phone call seeking comment on the counterclaim.

Speaking with by phone, Ras' lawyer Kathryn Marshall, called the counterclaim "absurd."

Marshall said she has sought particulars about the statements in the counterclaim since it was filed in August but has not heard back so far from Starr's lawyers.

"I think it's a vexatious, baseless counterclaim designed solely to cause Miss Ras to withdraw her lawsuit, and she's not going to do that," Marshall said. "I think there's zero merit to his counterclaim. I think it's absurd, in fact.

"At the end of the day, she is the victim here. She is a victim in this entire case and it's outrageous that she's having to spend tens of thousands on legal fees, fight the city, and now Mr. Starr is suing her. There's a lot wrong with that with that scenario."

While a judge struck down a portion of Ras' claim against the city pertaining to constructive dismissal in September, the city remains a defendant in her lawsuit.

"The City is satisfied the judge's order striking the claims against the municipality was the correct decision in law," the City of Mississauga said in an email to CTV News Toronto when asked about Starr's counterclaim. "The City will defend the crossclaim filed by Ron Starr and does not have any further comment at this time."

Marshall said Ras has filed an appeal concerning the dismissal of the portion of the suit dealing with constructive dismissal, with the appeal expected to be heard in about six months. She stressed that the city remains a defendant in Ras' claim.

The allegations in Starr's counterclaim have not yet been tested in court.