WARNING: This article contains content that may be upsetting to some readers.
Coun. Mike McCann “vigorously denies” allegations of sexual assault, harassment and battery in a statement of defence responding to claims made in a civil lawsuit filed against him by a city staffer.
McCann filed a statement of defence at the Superior Court of Justice in Barrie July 14 in response to allegations detailed in a lawsuit filed by Amanda Kelly, who is currently on leave but was working at the city when the alleged incidents occurred.
Kelly alleges in her statement of claim, filed Jan. 17, that McCann instigated three separate episodes between October and December of 2019.
None of the allegations have been tested in court.
“The plaintiff’s allegations against the defendant are false,” says the statement, filed by lawyer Peter Downard, on McCann’s behalf. “They will be flatly contradicted at trial by persons who observed the conduct of the plaintiff.”
Kelly’s statement of claim alleges the first incident occurred at a Barrie business in or around October 2019.
Kelly, who was working as senior business innovation and entrepreneurship officer, was providing a Toronto-area business owner, considering relocating his company, with a tour of Barrie’s core. McCann was also present, and allegedly made a comment about her legs.
Kelly alleges the second incident occurred Nov. 18 at a meeting regarding youth entrepreneurship programming and an initiative, pitched by McCann, called ‘Be Your 10’.
McCann and several of Kelly’s colleagues were present. During the meeting at city hall, Kelly made a comment about “seeding” or fertilizing entrepreneurial skills in youth.
McCann, face “red … rocking back and forth in his chair, and sweating profusely,” allegedly interrupted Kelly by laughing, throwing his hands into the air and saying, “You said it, not me.” According to her statement of claim, that was McCann’s attempt to give the comment “sexual meaning.”
In his statement of defence, McCann acknowledges being at the downtown restaurant for a meeting with a business associate, but says he said “hello” to Kelly, and no further conversation took place.
On the second incident, McCann’s statement says his face may have been red due to a “managed medical condition which causes his face to appear flushed or tanned from time to time.”
The statement says he may have “presented and spoken in an animated manner” because he often does so and he may also have used the words “you said it, not me” as a way of demonstrating confidence in the ideas of others and to encourage their participation.
“It is absolutely false, however, that he used these words in the meeting in a sexualized context or manner,” the statement of defence says.
The third incident allegedly happened Dec. 19 during an after party at a downtown pub following a work-related Christmas function.
According to Kelly’s statement of claim, McCann called Kelly over to a group of people and when she shook hands with one of them, he laughed and said: “You don’t want to know where that just was,” an alleged reference to the person touching their own genitals.
When she tried to walk away, McCann allegedly said the group needed her because they were “having a conversation about grabbing women’s asses in public.”
Later that evening, according to Kelly’s statement of claim, McCann put his arm around her and pulled her toward him, tightly pressing them together. He asked her age, then implied he could help her advance in her job.
The statement of claim alleges McCann said he does “whatever the f— I want” at city hall, that she was “special,” and “I can make or break your career.”
McCann allegedly became agitated and repeatedly insisted on taking Kelly out for dinner.
She met with Mayor Jeff Lehman on Dec. 30 and launched a complaint.
McCann’s statement of defence says he offered to buy Kelly a drink that night, but she declined because she already had one. He says he sat on a stool at one end of the bar among a larger group of people.
“In this context the plaintiff walked up to Mr. McCann and engaged in conversation with him in a flirtatious manner that was obvious to nearby observers,” the statement of defence said. “The plaintiff entered the personal space between Mr. McCann’s legs as he continued to sit at the bar.”
Kelly then allegedly put her arms around McCann’s neck, grabbed his wrist, touched his arms and chest, put her arm around his back, and touched his inner thigh, the statement says.
“The plaintiff was laughing and smiling during her conversation with Mr. McCann,” the statement of defence said. “Nearby observers were surprised by the plaintiff’s obviously flirtatious conduct toward Mr. McCann … they observed nothing about the plaintiff indicating any discomfort or awkwardness.”
In the statement of defence, McCann also denies the conversation about “grabbing asses” took place or that he pulled her close.
It says, at one point during their conversation, she fell backward and he braced her back to stop the fall — contact which lasted a few seconds.
McCann’s statement denies any conversation about her age, or discussion about the two of them going to dinner because he had “separated from his wife several months earlier and was not pursuing any new relationship.”
The statement says McCann told a friend the following day Kelly made “romantic overtures,” but he hadn’t pursued her.
Furthermore, the statement of defence said the allegations around McCann being able to affect her career and to do whatever he wants at city hall are “preposterous” as he’s one of 11 council members and has “very limited” authority.
The statement says Kelly’s decision to take the allegations to the mayor — rather than other channels — may be proof of “political” motivation.
McCann’s statement of defence denies he ever met alone with Kelly and says he “vigorously denies” accusations of sexual assault, sexual battery, battery or assault.
Kelly is seeking $200,000 in general and special damages as well as any other costs the court deems just.
McCann’s statement rejects claims Kelly suffered damages as a result of his conduct, or that he engaged in conduct warranting an award of punitive damages.
McCann is asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed with costs.