Spaniard’s Bay mayor hopes town can heal with release of report
Coun. Seymour stands behind decision not to participate in fire department review
The release of a lengthy report looking into serious allegations leveled against the Spaniard’s Bay Volunteer Fire Department was the talk of the town last week.
For the firefighters who followed the lead of former department liaison to council Sheri Collins last January and resigned, there’s likely a sense of relief at the report’s findings, which largely absolve the fire department and its former chief Victor Hiscock (see Page A3).
The Compass attempted to contact close to a dozen former firefighters. Those it did reach either declined to comment or said they still needed to sit down with the 112-page report, prepared by retired RCMP Sgt. Cliff Yetman.
Hiscock hadn’t read the document yet when contacted last Wednesday, though he indicated he might be willing to speak about the review at a later date.
Mayor Tony Menchions, who was among five council members to support the motion to accept the report, hopes its release will help the town repair its reputation.
“There’s a lot of residents in Spaniard’s Bay that was hurt,” he told The Compass. “There was members of council that was hurt, like myself and my family included. I had a lot of very disrespectful emails and calls to say the least. We all stuck to our guns. There was times I didn’t know if I was going to make it through the next day with regards to council work, to be honest with you. I’ve been there.”
Coun. Brenda Seymour, the firefighter whose allegations of bullying, harassment and intimidation were at the centre of initial calls for the review, voted against accepting the report.
“I can pretty well debunk a great portion of Cliff Yetman’s views, and I can back it up with documentation,” she said, adding the review does not fit the criteria for a full workplace investigation.
Seymour, who declared conflict when it came to the selection process, stands behind her decision not to participate in the review. She was uncomfortable with having a former RCMP officer handle the investigation in light of considerable harassment allegations the national police force has faced internally.
Seymour takes issue with the report’s conclusion that the pornographic clip played at a training session was screened when it was over, noting everyone was still seated and a full day of practical experience training was scheduled for the next day.
“He knows the difference, but still, he’s misleading the public and he’s dismissing the fact that that porn film was played as insignificant.”
She also contends it was wrong to place responsibility solely on the trainer in question, former Bay de Grave fire chief Jeremy Hall.
The mayor takes no issue with the work of Yetman.
“He was picked over a number of other people … We all figured he was the most qualified, and we left him alone with no borders to do his job.”
Acknowledging the report’s significant cost to the town — approximately $30,000 — the mayor feels it was a solid investment in healing Spaniard’s Bay’s reputation.
As far as the next step goes, Menchions said council will need to sit down and discuss the report’s recommendations, which call for changes to how the fire department interacts with council and also suggests council should create a dialogue with former and current firefighters impacted by last year’s events.
“It’s a long road, and I can tell ya, it’s certainly not going to repair everything overnight, to say the least,” he said.
Seymour has not, in her own words, “exhausted all avenues” when it comes to the report’s conclusions.
“The healing process for me will come when I set the record straight in that report.”
She is however pleased to see that a year later, the fire department is functioning at a high level and buoyed by strong leadership.
“With functionality in this fire department now, I am confident that they are capable of using their rules of procedure, their standard operating procedures — all these things … All things they have in place are the things that are in place in fire departments everywhere, and they’re following that example.”
It’s a long road, and I can tell ya, it’s certainly not going to repair everything overnight, to say the least. — Mayor Tony Menchions
Spaniard’s Bay Mayor Tony Menchions.
Spaniard’s Bay Coun. Brenda Seymour.