Details emerge about Boxing Day event at Harbour Grace arena

Unauthorized access of facility led to termination of employee, says mayor

Melissa Jenkins melissa.jenkins@tc.tc
Published on February 5, 2014
S. W. Moores Memorial Arena, Harbour Grace
Photo by Terry Roberts/The Compass

Details of a controversial event held at S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace on Boxing Day are beginning to emerge, and it appears the incident is what led to the termination of a longtime arena employee.

Details of a controversial event held at S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace on Boxing Day are beginning to emerge, and it appears the incident is what led to the termination of a longtime arena employee.

A group of roughly three-dozen people played hockey at the arena for seven-and-a-half hours on Dec. 26. The holiday hockey party included food, beer and skating.

The practice is a longstanding tradition, dating back some two decades, and sources say the town never charged for the event.

But this year’s gathering stirred up a host of issues, and ended with the firing of one unionized employee, and the issuance of an apology by the group using the rink.

It was also followed by the resignation of two newly hired senior municipal employees, including the arena manager. However, it has not been confirmed whether the incident is related to the resignations, since members of council have refused to discuss details of the departures. The two former employees have also declined comment.

 

No formal booking

Here’s what’s been learned.

Mayor Terry Barnes asserted Feb. 4 there was nothing booked for the stadium Dec. 26, although that was debated by the participating group, who loosely call themselves the “Boxing Day Group.”

One of the users, who asked not to be identified, stated stadium officials initially contacted them with information on changes to their annual event.

“They contacted us regarding (the skate) in early December,” the user explained. “They called us and said, ‘you guys have to do it a bit different this year.’”

The changes included formally renting and paying for the rink. The user said the group agreed, and assumed the conversation was sufficient notice of confirmation.

But when Boxing Day arrived, there was no rink attendant to let them in.

“We thought the rink attendant was just running late,” the user continued.

One of the members made a call, and the terminated employee showed up to let them in, something Mayor Barnes said should not have happened.

“(He) was an employee who was off on leave, who wasn’t supposed to be in the stadium, or give access to the stadium,” Barnes explained.

It was Dec. 27 before Barnes and stadium management knew the event had taken place, and the group was contacted.

“We thought this year we were doing it by the wishes of management, the way they wanted it done,” the user said. “It was clear soon after it was certainly not the case.”

Barnes confirmed the RCMP was contacted, but charges were not laid.

“Breaking and entering is hard to charge anyone with when a town employee lets them in,” Barnes said.

There was also a lock broken on a dressing room door, but the group admitted fault and paid the damages.

The rental was also paid in full.

Town officials would not confirm, but The Compass has learned the total was around $1,500.

 

The aftermath

The user explained the group had been in contact with stadium management about concerns of unauthorized access.

“We had members from our group call rink management and really try to come to an agreement,” he explained. “It was miscommunication, and, from what I understand, everything was fine going forward.”

The employee was terminated once the information was revealed. Barnes said the employee admitted to letting the group in.

Sources say the union contract states an employee must first receive a verbal warning, then a written reprimand before they can be terminated. It is unknown if the employee had been disciplined previously.

The town and the union are currently going through lawyers about the termination, but Barnes confirmed the employee is “technically” still an employee of the town, but is not receiving a paycheque.

Melissa.jenkins@tc.tc