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McCann files statement of defence in sexual harassment lawsuit

Barrie councillor's statement of defence denies 'each and every allegation' and says city staffer's lawsuit 'should be dismissed with costs'

Editors note: The following story contains allegations and language contained in court documents that could be disturbing for some readers.

Barrie Coun. Mike McCann has filed his statement of defence following allegations of employment-related sexual harassment from a city staffer, denying “each and every allegation” in her statement of claim.

McCann’s 10-page statement of defence was filed Thursday, July 14 at the Barrie courthouse by lawyer Peter A. Downard from Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP.

Amanda Kelly, 32, a senior business innovation and entrepreneurship officer with the City of Barrie, has cited three alleged instances in her statement of claim, which was filed Jan. 17 in Ontario Superior Court. It is alleged the harassment came in the form of “unwanted touching of a sexual nature, sexualized comments, sexual advances, and sexual solicitations.”

Kelly’s lawsuit seeks $200,000 in damages, plus any costs the court approves.

The allegations have not been tested in court.

In McCann’s statement of defence, he says that in Kelly’s allegation from an interaction in October 2019, she stopped him to say hello, to which he replied the same, at the Flying Monkeys brewery in downtown Barrie. McCann says there was no further conversation between the two and he denies her claim that he noted she “should have been a ballerina with those legs.”

In the second alleged incident, which the claim says took place on or around Nov. 18, 2019, Kelly and McCann attended a meeting at Barrie City Hall regarding the youth entrepreneurship programming for 2020 and his proposed ‘Be Your 10’ competition/campaign. McCann admits he arrived late and that his face may have been flush. He says he “has managed a medical condition which causes his face to appear flushed or tanned from time to time.”

McCann also admits he may have spoken in an animated manner, as “he often does so.”

Kelly claimed that she made a comment about “seeding” or “fertilizing” entrepreneurial skill sets in youth. Her statement of claim alleges McCann interrupted her by laughing, putting his hands in the air and saying “you said it, not me.” Kelly’s statement of claim alleges the councillor was intentionally misinterpreting her comment to have a sexual meaning and implying that was her intent.

McCann’s statement of defence says he may have used the words “you said it, not me” in the course of the meeting. The statement of defence says McCann “often used this phrase in meetings to demonstrate confidence in the ideas of others and to encourage their contributions and participation.”

The statement of defence denies he used the words in a sexualized context or manner.

McCann’s statement of defence says the meeting took place in a small boardroom where everyone was sitting closely and would have been heard clearly. It also states that at no time has anyone, including Kelly’s direct supervisor or any other senior city officials who were present, raised an issue with his words or conduct at the meeting.

The third alleged incident occurred in the late evening on Dec. 19, 2019 at Donaleigh’s Irish Public House after McCann had attended a nearby Christmas house party. McCann’s statement of defence says he and a large group of people attended the bar; McCann went to the bar and, upon doing so, noticed Kelly standing there. He admits offering to buy her a drink, to which she said she did not need one.

McCann’s statement of defence says he sat near the end of the bar with several people from a larger group, sitting with his back to the bar. He says Kelly walked up to him and “engaged in a flirtatious manner that was obvious to nearby observers.”

In Kelly’s statement of claim, she says she thought she heard her name called and turned to see McCann heading in her direction.

In what the statement of claim called “an urgent tone,” McCann said, “Amanda, Amanda, come here, we need you.” The claim alleges McCann’s tone seemed to suggest that the matter was urgent and she excused herself from the discussion she was having with her colleagues.

The statement of claim alleges McCann introduced Kelly to the group he was with by saying, “This is Amanda from the city.” Kelly states she shook hands with those present in a professional manner, but did not recognize most of the people who were there. One individual was dancing in the middle of the group and Kelly alleges that when she shook that individual’s hand, McCann laughed and commented, “Uh oh, you shouldn’t have done that. You don’t want to know where that just was,” in reference to the person’s hand she shook.

The statement of claim indicates Kelly took that to mean McCann was suggesting the individual’s hand had recently touched their own genitals. The claim states the individuals present in the group exchanged looks and began to laugh.

The statement of claim says Kelly was disgusted by McCann’s comment in light of its “inappropriate innuendo” and, believing she could have germs on her hand, wiped it on McCann’s sleeve.

McCann’s statement of defence claims the banter regarding talk of where someone’s hand had been was different. McCann states that in the course of their conversation, Kelly said, “I know where your hands are going to be in an hour, and subsequently told him that ‘I know where you’re going to be in an hour.’”

In Kelly’s statement of claim, she alleges McCann grabbed her wrist and firmly held it up in front of the group, exclaiming, “Ha, hey, did you guys see that? Did you see what she just did?” The claim alleges McCann began to shake her wrist high above the group until she pulled her hand free and turned her body with the intention of walking away.

McCann’s statement of defence says that incident was about which one of them had the best Michael Jackson dance moves. McCann claims Kelly said she did and he then “held the plaintiff’s hand above her head.”

Kelly’s statement of claim alleges that McCann had originally called her over to him and his group because they were “having a conversation about grabbing women’s asses in public and we need you here for that. What do you think?” Kelly states she responded saying, “Don’t do it.”

McCann’s statement of defence denies that conversation took place.

His statement of defence also denies grabbing Kelly and pulling her close, as she alleges in her statement of claim.

McCann alleges that at one point Kelly fell backward and he quickly braced her from falling.

Kelly’s statement of claim also alleges that at one point McCann turned to Kelly and said, “You know, Amanda, you and I need to go to dinner.” The statement of claim says Kelly replied by saying, “I don’t know about that,” to which McCann allegedly said, “No, no, no. You and I are going for dinner and you’re not allowed to bring anyone else.”

McCann’s statement of defence also denies that conversation occurred.

His statement of defence says, “McCann had separated from his wife several months earlier and was not pursuing any new relationship.”

According to Kelly’s statement of claim, McCann allegedly said: “Look, you don’t ever need to be worried about what’s going on over there right now. I like you. I want us to work together. I can make sure nobody touches you. Look, I can make or break your career, Amanda, and I’ve decided that I want to work with you. You’re different than everyone else at city hall. You’re special.”

McCann’s statement of defence denies this allegation, saying McCann is only one of 11 members of Barrie’s city council and “as an experienced municipal employee, the plaintiff (Kelly) knows that Mr. McCann’s authority within the city, and particularly regarding city staff, is very limited.”

On or about Dec. 30, 2019, Kelly’s statement of claim says she met with Mayor Jeff Lehman to lodge a complaint. After that, the City of Barrie retained a third-party investigator to conduct a formal investigation of the incidents. That investigator concluded that “Coun. McCann’s behaviour was inappropriate, disrespectful and harassing.”

McCann’s statement of defence questions whether Kelly’s allegations are politically motivated, because she reported them to the mayor.

The statement of defence says “the city has channels for the making of employee complaints which have nothing to do with politicians, and which the plaintiff did not choose to use for the purpose of initiating her complaint.”

McCann’s statement of defence also “vigorously denies that he committed the torts of sexual assault, sexual battery, battery or assault; that he put the plaintiff in fear of harm through threats, words and gestures of a sexual or non sexual nature, or otherwise acted in a manner which could have put the plaintiff reasonably in fear of such harm; or that he committed the tort of intentional infliction of municipal suffering.”

Kelly’s statement of claim says the alleged incidents have impacted her “ability to work and maintain her community involvement” and “they have also impacted her personal relationships and overall health.” The claim also states McCann’s alleged actions resulted in Kelly “suffering from numerous medical issues,” both physical and emotional.

“The course of Amanda’s career has been irrevocably altered for the worse by the assaults and battery she was subjected to by Coun. McCann,” the statement of claim alleges.

McCann’s statement of defence denies that Kelly has suffered damages as a result of any conduct by him, either alleged or at all. It also denies that McCann has engaged in any conduct warranting an award of punitive damages against him.

The statement of defence says that Kelly’s lawsuit “should be dismissed with costs.”

“Further, as made clear above, the plaintiff’s false allegations of misconduct by the defendant (McCann) represent an abuse of this court. The plaintiff has participated in the publication of those false allegations in the City of Barrie, where the defendant has been municipal councillor for almost eight years. Having regard to the plaintiff’s conduct the award of the costs of this action to the defendant should be made on a full indemnity basis.”