Not the best choice


The case of Spa­niard’s Bay coun­cil­lor Brenda Sey­mour’s dis­missal from the fire depart­ment is a tan­gled one.

It was mapped out in great de­tail in the study com­pleted by re­tired fire chief and for­mer deputy mayor Ger­ald A. His­cock. His cre­den­tials, given the case’s close­ness to both the in­ner-work­ings of the fire depart­ment and the town coun­cil, were cer­tainly there.

How­ever, there’s one fac­tor that al­lows peo­ple to ques­tion the find­ings of his re­port, which re­sulted in coun­cil re­in­stat­ing Sey­mour.

“I have in­ter­acted with the peo­ple in­volved in this mat­ter on both a per­sonal and pro­fes­sional ba­sis; they have been neigh­bours, col­leagues and friends.”

That’s a state­ment His­cock wrote in the pref­ace of his study. Prior to that, he refers to the need to dis­play ab­so­lute ob­jec­tiv­ity to en­sure the study is both fair and ac­cu­rate. Spot on. As a doc­u­ment, the re­port backs up its opin­ions and con­clu­sions with lots of back­ground in­for­ma­tion on the sus­pen­sion and dis­missal of Sey­mour.

But writ­ing on a prickly sit­u­a­tion in­volv­ing col­leagues, friends and neigh­bours is dicey, and even more so when con­sid­er­ing who those friends may be.

An anony­mous com­ment made re­gard­ing last week’s front-page story (Fric­tion in the fire brigade) ques­tioned whether the re­porter should have looked more closely at the re­la­tions be­tween those in­volved.

“Maybe then he would have found out that the au­thor of the study com­mis­sioned by coun­cil, Mr. Ger­ald His­cock, is also a close friend of Mrs. Sey­mour and her hus­band.”

First off, state­ments made anony­mously are prob­lem­atic. If a per­son’s con­vic­tions are strong enough about a state­ment he or she makes, they should feel con­fi­dent sign­ing their name to it. But The Com­pass’ pol­icy is to ac­com­mo­date them, in any event.

Whether or not His­cock is a close friend of Coun. Sey­mour specif­i­cally, he him­self ad­mit­ted to be­ing close to those in­volved in the case. In hind­sight, it is log­i­cal to won­der whether it may have been wise for coun­cil to con­sider find­ing a qual­i­fied can­di­date with no con­nec­tion to those par­ties in­volved with the mat­ter.

The an­swer is ob­vi­ous — yes, it would have. Had that been the case, there would be one less rea­son to ques­tion the find­ings of the study.

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