Toronto's city manager is condemning the Toronto District School Board's decision to sue the city, the fire department, the police services board and the Ontario Fire Marshall for $90 million over a fire that destroyed York Memorial Collegiate Institute.
In a letter addressed to Karen Falconer, the board's interim director of education, Chris Murray says the lawsuit was "intended to cause unwarranted harm for some undisclosed strategic benefit."
"I am compelled to express my extreme disappointment in the baseless and irresponsible allegations made against Fire Chief Matthew Pegg," the city manager writes.
The fire, which happened on the afternoon of May 6, 2019, irreparably damaged the heritage building, leaving students and teachers devastated.
The lawsuit, which has not been tested in court, alleges "gross negligence" by Toronto Fire Services caused the flames to "rekindle" and spread throughout the school, and that the fire marshal subsequently sought to cover up the fire department's mistakes.
It also alleges Pegg and other spokespeople made misleading statements about the fire in media interviews.
The final Ontario Fire Marshal report, based on a meeting with Pegg, was drafted to "downplay, mislead, conceal and suppress evidence of negligence and gross negligence" on the part of both the fire marshal and the city fire department, the lawsuit says.
Pegg said he became aware of the statement of claim when a colleague sent him a media story Wednesday, but declined to comment further.
Murray defended Pegg in his letter, calling the move to sue "disappointing" considering the close relationship between the board and the city throughout the pandemic.
"It is difficult not to view this spurious attack on Chief Pegg as a betrayal of our close relationship," wrote Murray.
Mayor comes to Pegg's defence
In a tweet Wednesday, Mayor John Tory also came to Pegg's defence, saying he will "fully support" the fire chief.
"Our City lawyers will energetically defend against these outrageous allegations," Tory stated in the tweet.
In the letter, Murray asks the board to reconsider the lawsuit as Murray says it could be detrimental to Pegg's reputation.
The TDSB has yet to issue a reply to Murray''s letter.
However, the board does say it attempted along with its insurer to settle the matter outside of court, but now has no choice but to take legal action.
"Our focus remains on supporting the 900 students and staff that were sadly displaced by the fire two years ago," spokesperson Ryan Bird said earlier this week.