Spaniard's Bay launching inquiry into its fire department
The Town of Spaniard's Bay is launching an independent inquiry into the town's fire department after a councillor called for the resignation or dismissal of the fire chief.
© Photo by Nicholas Mercer/The Compass
Spaniard's Bay Mayor Tony Menchions (right) and town manager Tony Ryan listen intently to the discussion at last week's council meeting.
This stems from a motion Deputy Mayor Paul Brazil made at the town's regular council meeting on Nov. 16 that was approved unanimously to consider human resource firms who could handle the job.
The motion came at the end of a lengthy discussion regarding the department, which saw no fewer than four motions hit the table. Of those motions, two from Coun. Breanda Seymour called for the immediate dismissal or suspension of Fire Chief Victor Hiscock. Both were defeated by a slim 4-3 margin. Seymour is also a member of the volunteer fire department.
"Have an HR firm come out, do an investigation with the possibility of giving us some direction into the severity of the accusations made and what actions would be deemed appropriate to deal with it," said Brazil. "There are a lot of issues here and the fire chief is not responsible to do all of them. He's responsible to do delegation of duties, maybe that is a problem.
"Maybe the work wasn't being dealt properly and maybe that is why a lot of these deficiencies and things not getting done are showing up on our table. We need to find out what the root cause of the problem is and then we'll move on from there."
Just over five years ago, the town took a similar action and had a report submitted on the department. That cost $3,000.
With dozens of firefighters in attendance, the air was tense as Coun. Tony Dominix made a motion that the council take immediate action in the re-evaluation and re-structuring of the fire department.
Seconded by Seymour, the motion came with a list of reasons outlining why action is needed. They ranged from the mismanagement of town property to the failure to enforce a direct order from council. That dealt with the town mandating the department to stay away from attending to medical calls until they have the proper equipment, adequate training for medical emergencies and liability insurance coverage specific to medical response.
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Among the more serious accusations brought up at last week's council meeting was sexual harassment. While the accusation is being leveled at the department, it originates from a training session held more than two years ago where an officer from a neighbouring department displayed a short clip from an adult film once the session had officially concluded.
Bay de Grave Fire Chief Jeremy Hall told The Compass he handled the training session and has since deleted the clip, which was sent to him via email and less than 30 seconds.
When contacted by The Compass, Hiscock said he would reserve comment until he has the opportunity to speak with council. He was not present at last week's council meeting.
Seymour and Hiscock have clashed in the past. She was suspended and subsequently dismissed from the department five years ago for allegedly overstepping her bounds on department matters (she was also a councillor at the time). A subsequent study paid for by the town found the discipline was unjust.
Menchions wants to see the report finished and incorporate interviews with members of council, the Fire Chief and members of the fire department.
"I just hope we can all work through it," he said.