The mayor of the embattled Town of Spaniard’s Bay believes the public apology to Brenda Seymour is a step in the right direction.
Tony Menchions told The Compass earlier today that he believes this will lead to a reprieve in the tension that has engulfed his town since the resignation of at least 20 firefighters a week ago.
They handed in their pagers in support of Coun. Sheri Collins, who was the liaison to the department. She resigned earlier in the council meeting.
“It took longer than we all wanted,” said Menchions “We’re going to do the right thing. We have to start somewhere.”
The right thing in this case is adopting a zero tolerance policy when it comes to harassment of any kind and a pledge to make sure town employees, as well as volunteers operate in “a safe, respectful and inclusive environment.”
“On behalf of the Spaniard’s Bay town council, I apologize to Brenda Seymour for instances of sexual harassment which she has endured. We do not condone, nor tolerate any such behavior,” the town said Tuesday in a news release signed by Menchions.
In the week following the resignations, allegations of sexual harassment and a mismanagement of the department came from Seymour, a firefighter and a councillor in the community.
An instance where a short clip of a pornographic film was shown at the conclusion of training seminar in April 2014 in which Seymour attended is one of a number of issues that have been causing tension in the community for some time.
The situation has been brewing since November when three of Spaniard’s Bay’s seven-member council attempted to remove former fire chief Victor Hiscock via a pair of motions that were defeated.
“Council promises a safe and respectful environment and supports gender equity,” states the release written with help from the Department of Municipal Affairs, MHA Pam Parsons and the fire commissioner’s office.
A second firefighter voice
At the same time Spaniard’s Bay sent out the release, a veteran firefighter spoke out against the allegations.
Ross Snow was a 13-year member of the department and has held the positions of secretary, treasurer, fire prevention officer, second lieutenant, first lieutenant, second fire captain and most recently first fire captain.
In a Facebook post, Snow addressed the clip, stating that “jokes and comments were made by all. In no way was it directed to Brenda in any way.”
Snow was appointed the lead man to investigate other allegations of sexual harassment, including the incident where Seymour went looking for her balaclava and when it was handed to her, another firefighter noted she might want to wash it because they ejaculated on it.
“I myself looked into the allegation made by Brenda as of late about the conversation when she went to get a nomax hood there were five people present including Brenda when it happened (excluding myself) and there's no proof as to the exact wording,” Snow wrote, adding it mounted to a “he said, she said situation. But knowing everybody involved I don't think for one second was there harassment.”
At the conclusion of his post, Snow suggests that the principle people involved, including Seymour should step aside until the “allegations and the legal proceedings end. Upon completion of those matters then shall any or all persons be dealt with accordingly.”
“Allow the firefighters to assume their roles and provide much needed service and allow council to resume their roles and run our beautiful town accordingly.”
The full post can be found here.
The woman at the centre of the maelstrom said she “accepts” the town’s apology.
“It exonerates me in the public eye to some extent,” said Seymour. “I’m quite pleased with it.”
When contacted by The Compass, she addressed pieces of Snow’s post. She said her husband, Martin, was in Alberta when the clip was shown.
“They tried to deal with it, but they didn’t eliminate the problem,” said Seymour.
There were also allegations of harassment leveled at Seymour in relation to the resignation of Collins. Seymour denied this and noted some statements were taken out of context.
Meanwhile, the town is looking to rebuild its shattered fire department and is issuing a call for applications from interested members of the community. Former members are welcomed to apply, although they will need to fill out an application. Deadline to do so is 4 p.m. on Feb. 12.
“We have to build from the ashes,” said Menchions.