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Former fire chief claims City of Penticton 'intended to cause mental distress and humiliation'

FILE PHOTO - Former Penticton Fire Chief Wayne Williams, shown in this April 14, 2015 photo, has launched a civil suit against the City of Penticton.
June 27, 2016 - 2:30 PM

PENTICTON - The City of Penticton is dealing with a lawsuit involving its former fire chief.

Wayne Harold Williams launched the civil suit on June 21 with a filing in B.C. Supreme Court.

Williams is seeking damages for wrongful dismissal, breach of an employment agreement, general and aggravated damages, punitive damages and costs.

Williams' issues with the city began following attendance of a critical incident in February 2015, which resulted in him taking short term disability leave in early September 2015.

Shortly after the incident Williams made public his plans to retire, although initially he did not confirm a retirement date, court records say.

Williams claims the city made irrelevant and inaccurate objections to his WorkSafe B.C. claim for benefits in October 2015, citing such things as “performance issues,” and “insubordination,” calling them false and unfounded.

Williams also claims the city was inferring his performance as chief was unsatisfactory, as well as feigning a disability so as to entitle him to workers compensation benefits.

In November 2015, Williams discussed a retirement date of Feb. 22, 2015, but prior to the city’s acceptance of that date, Williams told the city his intention was to retire following WorkSafe B.C.’s determination of his being deemed fit to return to work.

However, the city dismissed Williams on Feb. 22, 2016, requesting a return of all Williams' uniforms, even though Williams might be expected to attend public functions as a retired fire chief.

Williams claims the circumstances surrounding his termination was intended to cause mental distress and humiliation.

Williams is also seeking compensation from a retroactive pay agreement paid to union firefighters following a recent judgement in favour of the unionized employees. Williams says the agreement resulted in a breach to his agreement with the city that would see his wage maintain a pay grade separation of 14.69 per cent between the highest paid base union salary and his salary as fire chief.

"As much as we try to be as transparent as possible, on legal and personnel matters we are more restricted with what we say and it is important to ensure the process and public record is not encumbered by commentary, emotion and subjective viewpoints," Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said in an email Monday, June 27.

"Former Chief Williams made his plans to retire very public and this was widely documented by local media. He also gave city staff his retirement date. Our understanding was he retired on Feb. 22, 2016. We of course went ahead with recruitment of a new chief," the mayor said, adding the city would release a more detailed, candid response outlining the city's position in the next two weeks.


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