‘It was almost like being put on trial and not being able to explain yourself’
Seymour agrees with that assessment.
“(It) kind of makes it difficult for me, because I’m a councillor. At any given point in time, I may need to discuss something about the fire department. How do you separate the two?”
Her dismissal on May 27 was preceded by a special council meeting. Prior to the meeting, Seymour requested a privileged meeting where she outlined her concerns regarding the level of fire department training in a written document. Once the privileged meeting concluded, Seymour was not permitted by council to take part in the discussion regarding the department and the appointment of a new council liaison with the brigade. Council cited a conflict of interest.
Seymour barred from meetings
At a May 13 meeting of the fire department, Mayor John Drover, acting as a liaison, read out the document Seymour presented to council at the privileged meeting. Earlier in the meeting, he had said that “Council will give their support on any reprimanding decisions the fire department makes on this issue.”
Two days later, the chief and executive members held a meeting with council that Seymour was asked not to attend because of a conflict of interest. Two days later, Seymour was dismissed from the brigade at a meeting she was told not to attend.
Gerald Hiscock finds that detail problematic.
“She had no opportunity to make her case to the membership,” he wrote. “An argument could therefore be made that Ms. Seymour has indeed had her individual rights infringed upon.”
He also believes council made a mistake when it deemed she was in a conflict of interest in discussing matters relating to the fire department. As well, the letters of suspension and dismissal from the fire department were “ vaguely worded,” according to Gerald Hiscock, with generalizations offered instead of specifics.
Seymour said there would only have been a conflict of interest at play if financial gain was involved, and she absolutely believes she should have been allowed to attend both meetings, particularly the one on May 27.
“It was almost like being put on trial and not being able to explain yourself,” she said. “ If I’d had a chance to explain why I brought those issues forward and what my concerns were, maybe my dismissal would never have happened.”
While the study is generally supportive of Seymour, it does highlight how her actions may have rubbed fellow firefighters the wrong way.
“However, in her quest for knowledge Ms. Seymour may have lost the support of many of her fellow firefighters as well as breaching the ‘Chain of Command.’ In fact, her aggressive approach created a hostile atmosphere with her colleagues on the department. This atmosphere later contributed to emotionally charged discussions and decision-making by the department on this matter.”
The study also deems fire department members could have considered her overeagerness to obtain training in another light.
“She was overly eager to get all the educational courses she could under her belt and her ways and means of doing so was considered to be insubordinate. However, others would argue that this type of individual you would want on your department; a person with a keen interest in being a member, a great willingness to learn, and boundless energy.”
Gerald Hiscock described Fire Chief Victor Hiscock as a popular chief with members who is also respected in the community. However, the study makes an assertion that may cast doubt on Hiscock’s suitability as chief.
“ The fire community has evolved to a point today where a fire chief has to possess the appropriate administrative and management skills to effectively achieve the ulti- mate aims and goals of the fire service.”
The study concludes with a number of recommendations regarding the department. The first one calls for an appointment system for designating the chief and deputy chief by an “independent selection committee.” Currently, the chiefs are selected by department members in a vote.
A motion was passed to advertise externally for a new fire chief, but the motion was subsequently rescinded at the March 21 council meeting. All those in attendance supported the motion to rescind the advertisement, excluding Coun. Tony Dominix, who is also council’s liaison for the fire department.
Seymour was outside
province at the time of the meeting.
Hiscock commended by mayor
Mayor Drover said the town will work with the department to help it improve. He said the town will put a committee in place to look at the functions of the chief and create a policy in conjunction with the department.
Drover commended Gerald Hiscock for the work he did on the study.
“ Like everything else, I guess nobody agrees 100 per cent with everything that someone does, but he’s very knowledgeable and very qualified to do the report.”
Seymour also supports the findings of the report, and in her view, she never lost the full support of fellow firefighters. However, she believes some members would be happy if she left the brigade.
She’s already seeing signs the department is moving in a positive direction. This past weekend, about a dozen members from Spaniard’s Bay were set to attend a two-day defensive firefighting training course in Cavendish.
Meanwhile, Chief Hiscock declined an interview request.