Vernon loses again in case over fire captain dismissed for sexual activity in chief's office | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon News

Vernon loses again in case over fire captain dismissed for sexual activity in chief's office

Vernon Fire and rescue Services

The City of Vernon has lost another appeal to overturn a ruling from the Labour Relations Board to reinstate a former fire captain dismissed after he was caught on surveillance camera having a brief moment of sexual activity with another member of staff in the chief's office.

The ruling from the B.C. Labour Relations Board, Dec. 13, dismisses the City of Vernon's Leave for Reconsideration appeal against the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1517.

The Labour Board's decision is one of several rulings made since the fire fighters' union won a ruling in March 2019, which stated Vernon Fire Rescue Service Capt. Brent Bond should not have been dismissed following the incident a year earlier.

Capt. Bond was fired in March 2018, days after a surveillance camera set up in the chief's office captured footage of him and a female dispatcher "engaged in a brief episode of sexual activity." An earlier decision from the board ruled that while Capt. Bond's behaviour was worthy of discipline, he should not have been fired from his $137,000 a year job. The arbitration board ruled Bond should be reinstated effective from February 2019, with a temporary demotion. The woman involved was a dispatcher and her position had since been outsourced and she was not rehired.

In the decision, the City argued the original arbitration panel did not take into reasonable consideration the "trust necessary" between Bond and the fire department on his return to work. The City argues when a "finding of dishonesty is made" the Board must give serious consideration to "how the trust underpinning the employment relationship can be restored". The City also argued it did not receive a fair hearing as the Board did not take into consideration some of the evidence presented and that reinstating Bond is inconsistent with the Labour Relations Code.

However, the three panel members Jacquie de Aguayo, Jennifer Glougie, and Andres Barker, ruled its earlier decision that stated "termination was excessive in all the circumstances" was valid and that the "employment relationship was not irreparably damaged by the Captain's dishonesty" during the arbitration hearing.

The City had argued it should have been allowed to call evidence on the conduct of Capt. Bond and his colleague prior to the incident "to establish" that they had been dishonest in their testimony at the hearing. However, the Board ruled because the City had fired the pair because of their tryst in the chief's office, it could not at a later day introduce additional reasons for dismissal.

The Board ruled the City "must live with the consequences of that decision" and it could not seek to reverse it by investigating and attempting to introduce evidence from prior to the incident they were fired for.

"It was not persuaded that it was necessary or appropriate to consider evidence of their conduct prior to those dates," reads the decision. The Board concludes declining to hear evidence prior to the incident in which the pair were fired did not deny the City a fair hearing.

Lengthy court documents from the hearing show a fire department rife with bullying, harrassment, and intimidation, and an independent review had led to further investigation. The City spent almost $200,000 between 2015 and 2018 to fix the problems within its fire department. That figure does not include the amount spent on Labour Relations Board costs.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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