Long-time Vaughan politician and deputy mayor Michael Di Biase has resigned in light of a damning report from the city’s integrity commissioner which concludes he sexually harassed a city employee and created an intimidating and offensive work environment.
In her report, Commissioner Suzanne Craig writes she finds Di Biase’s actions constitute sexual harassment and breach the code of ethical conduct.
The woman alleges that between March and July 2016, Di Biase sexually harassed her, claiming he “groped me, kissed me, touched my breasts and pushed himself against me.” She says she pushed Di Biase away, telling him, “Do not ever let this happen again.”
The report also includes a portion of an audio recording made in July 2016 by the woman in which Di Biase admits he is “sorry I did it” while blaming “temptation.”
Di Biase: I am there for you.
Woman: Then why would you touch my breasts and kiss me and put your tongue in
my mouth right after that, when I am so visibly upset.
Di Biase: I didn’t put my tongue in your mouth… I tried… but you said no.
Woman: But you did.
Di Biase: I didn’t…
Woman: And you touched my breast.
Di Biase: OK, I am sorry.
Di Biase: OK. [laughter]. I said I am sorry, what do you want me to do?
The woman also alleges that since filing her complaint with the integrity commissioner, she has been followed and been the subject of surveillance by an unknown man.
Craig also noted in her report that the woman “exhibited signs of shock, serious psychological injury and post-traumatic stress” by the events she alleges took place. She also advised the woman to file a complaint with police because the allegations constitute sexual assault, which the integrity commissioner has no jurisdiction over.
Di Biase’s lawyer responded to the allegations made in the report, categorically denying wrongdoing and claiming he had been the victim of “entrapment.”
Di Biase attempted to explain his behaviour by saying, “It is his custom, as it is with many Italians, to hug and kiss friends and colleagues on each cheek both as a greeting and when you depart.” He also characterized the woman’s demeanor as “flirtatious” and “overtly affectionate.”
Craig recommends Di Biase be docked 90 days’ pay and be stripped of the title of deputy mayor.
In a statement released late Thursday, Di Biase says “while I have throughout maintained my innocence, I do not wish to be a distraction from the important work that is ahead for our council in protecting the interests of this city.”
Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua called the report “gravely concerning.” He’s called for a special council meeting for May 23.
It’s not the first time Di Biase has been investigated. More than two years ago, the integrity commissioner found he breached the city’s code of conduct by using intimidation and abusive language against city staff.