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City seeking $395K from couple for harassment

Suit alleges former candidate and spouse breached terms of previous settlement

The City of Vaughan has commenced legal action against Maple residents Gino and Mary Ruffolo for allegedly breaching the terms of a 2006 settlement by — among other things — annoying city staff.

The city alleges that the Ruffolos have failed to cease harassing staff, breaching the terms of the settlement they and the city had agreed to.

The city is seeking more than $395,000 in damages.

“It’s a litigation that’s about a settlement that the city strongly feels was breached,” Glenn Christie, legal counsel retained by the city, said on Wednesday. “And it’s about ongoing harassment of the city as a consequence of that breach of the settlement.”

The settlement in question was reached on June 22, 2006, following a year of negotiations to conclude a wrongful dismissal suit brought by former city employee Mary Ruffolo. In that legal action, filed on June 16, 2005, Ruffolo reportedly alleged sexual harassment by her supervisor.

Mary Ruffolo, a failed city council candidate in the 2006 election, was awarded $160,000 in the settlement in return for her withdrawing all outstanding complaints against the city and its staff.

The current statement of claim states that it was understood during negotiations of the original settlement that both Mary and Gino Ruffolo would no longer engage in behaviour the city viewed as harassing.

“That agreement has not been abided by basically from day one,” Christie said.

The city’s lawsuit, filed at the Ontario Superior Court in Toronto, lists numerous instances of alleged “persistent, repeated, intentional and malicious” behaviour by the Ruffolos, dating back to Sept. 25, 2006.

“In all, the actions of the defendants have consumed several hundred hours of staff time,” the statement of claim alleges. “In addition, the vexatious and harassing nature of some of the messages have been personally targeted at individual employees of the City.”

The suit also alleges that the majority of harassment has been directed at Mary Ruffolo’s former managers and supervisors in the Department of Engineering, often in the form of lengthy inquiries for information.

It is also alleged that Gino Ruffolo “frequently challenges, impugns and defames” senior staff, including the city manager, and that he often spies on city employees as they work.

In an attempt to stop this alleged behaviour, on June 25 the city sent Gino Ruffolo a cease and desist letter demanding that he comply with the terms of the original 2006 settlement.

The most recent alleged transgression in the city’s statement of claim is in a Nov. 13 Toronto Star article quoting an interview given by Mary Ruffolo.

Even though this “serious violation” came just days before the city’s suit was filed, Christie wouldn’t draw the connection on behalf of his client, the City of Vaughan.

“I don’t think there was (a final straw),” he said.

At press time, the Ruffolos had not returned Vaughan Today’s calls.

Vaughan Today
Online: November 22, 2007 [link]