‘Shamed’ by tribunal: how sexual assault claim derailed Canada’s mayor

‘The concerns noted were based on mere allegations,’ says Vanessa VanAuken, who chairs city commission A Canadian town’s mayor says she is “vindicated” by a report suggesting that city officials mishandled the release of…

'Shamed' by tribunal: how sexual assault claim derailed Canada's mayor

‘The concerns noted were based on mere allegations,’ says Vanessa VanAuken, who chairs city commission

A Canadian town’s mayor says she is “vindicated” by a report suggesting that city officials mishandled the release of child sex assault charges against its mayor. But a city employee and another community leader maintain the complaint did not inspire a criminal investigation.

Vanessa VanAuken, who chairs the local governing commission responsible for appointing city commissioners, said she personally reviewed the findings and the “facts were there”, emphasizing that the complaints failed to constitute criminal allegations.

VanAuken said the report found that concerns about an official’s sexual relationships with young women were “based on mere allegations”, which she said were contrary to the testimony of witnesses.

The report found the commission had violated its bylaws when it denied requests from the Vancouver Island’s child and youth advocate that it hire another professional to oversee its practices, and VanAuken said that it deserved its recent $200,000 public disciplinary order.

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Earlier this year, a Toronto community leader, Karim Khalaf, contacted Londoners to report his suspicions that that city officials mishandled the release of sexual assault charges against its mayor, John Tory. The complaints involved allegations made by one of the mayor’s four accusers.

But Peter Willsman, the official responsible for the mayor’s office, and Lorna Abel, an administration manager in the mayor’s office, both said that despite their protests, no one took their comments into consideration when releasing the sexual assault charges.

“It’s not right to rely on emotions, that’s not what it’s all about,” Willsman said.

Abel said that she made suggestions on how to better handle the matter, but that all her suggestions were ignored, and felt she should have been offered some form of punishment. Willsman said he was prepared to apologize to her, but offered no such apology to Khalaf.

Although Willsman criticized the inquiry being conducted by VanAuken, he said he had “no problem” with what the city commission did to discipline itself.

Tory initially denied the allegations made against him, but has since resigned.

Clement Gignac, the incoming mayor, has called for a criminal investigation into the mayor’s handling of the situation.

The investigation has so far been botched, in part because the media has focused on “non-parties who don’t have any connection whatsoever to the matter”, and not on people involved in their complaints, which include adult women who declined to speak to the Guardian because they were asked by the media to do so.

Tory initially denied the allegations made against him, but has since resigned.

Several of the women involved in the accusations would not discuss their issues and Gignac has declined requests to comment. Several of the women who would not comment have been contacted by the Guardian.

VanAuken said it was unfair to expect people involved in their complaints to speak publicly.

Ruth Cockburn (@ruthcockburn) Media here in @BramptonON aboutto ring me but I don’t want to comment till after the Kudos meeting. You will be #conforming. Thanks as usual to @Racherenesally.

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