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 Compass - - Front page - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

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

TC ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

Spa­niard’s Bay Mayor Tony Men­chions.

TC ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

Spa­niard’s Bay Coun. Brenda Sey­mour.

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