Vernon spent $240K on legal battle over firing fire fighter | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon spent $240K on legal battle over firing fire fighter

February 27, 2020 - 7:00 AM

The City of Vernon spent almost a quarter of a million dollars in its legal battle with a fire captain fired for engaging in brief sexual acts with a colleague in the fire chief's office.

A Freedom of Information request filed with the City of Vernon shows $240,600 has been spent on legal fees relating to the firing of Capt. Brent Bond in 2018 and 2019.

The fire captain made headlines in 2018 when he was caught on a hidden surveillance camera engaging in a “brief moment of consensual sexual activity” with a colleague in the fire chief’s office. Both employees were promptly fired following the incident but fought the dismissal and in March 2019 the B.C. Labour Relations Board ordered the pair to be reinstated.

While Bond got his $130,000 a year job back - albeit with a five-month disciplinary suspension - the other employee’s position had been contracted out so she was not reinstated.

The City fought the Labour Relations Board decision but lost several appeals costing the Vernon taxpayer $137,000 in legal fees in 2019.

Freedom of Information requests show the City spent $103,526 on legal fees in 2018 and $137,074 in 2019. Prior to the incident, the City also commissioned two independent reports in an effort to fix problems within the fire department at the cost of $92,671, taking the total number of dollars spent to $333,272.

When asked how the City could justify spending such a large amount of money on lawyers, the City responded saying it was required to go to arbitration as the Union had fought the termination.

"The Union also fought the admissibility of the video evidence, which added time and expense to the proceeding," says a statement from the City.

"The City continues to maintain the view that its decision to terminate a fire captain for engaging in sexual activity with a subordinate, while on duty, was the correct one. It continues to be important to the City, particularly as a public body employer, to take a principled stand against such egregious misconduct in the workplace," the statement reads.

City of Vernon Chief Administrative Officer Will Pearce confirmed Brent Bond was back working with Vernon Fire Rescue Services but refused to comment on whether any more legal proceedings would take place, saying the City does not comment on personnel issues.

Court documents made available throughout the proceedings show a workplace rife with distrust, lies and deception. Prior to the incident in 2017, Bond had been suspended for three days and put on a six-month performance review, following a complaint of bullying and harassment from another firefighter. The hidden camera in the chief's office wasn't intended to catch Bond and his colleague in their moment of intimacy, but as part of that same culture of distrust, the chief suspected someone was reading confidential documents.

The Vernon Professional Firefighters' Association IAFF LOCAL 1517 did not return our call by press time.

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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