‘It was al­most like be­ing put on trial and not be­ing able to ex­plain your­self’

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - Edi­tor’s note: See next week’s edi­tion of The Com­pass for more on the health of the Spa­niard’s Bay Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment.

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.”

Not blame­less

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

the

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.

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