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The one clear thing about the Vernon fire department sex scandal

April 09, 2019 - 3:52 PM

 


OPINION


Join me for another bowl of delicious news soup. 

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As Penticton and Kamloops continue to ponder a future for performing arts centres (and Kelowna, I suspect isn’t far behind), they should probably put their collective heads together on how they can best serve the entire region.

Let me explain. When Prospera Place was built in Kelowna, they clearly didn’t anticipate that Penticton would build the South Okanagan Events Centre a few years later and would dine out on Prospera’s lunch on the regular. When West Kelowna politicians and citizen groups created their fictitious marketing plans for Royal LePage Place and justified ballooning costs with the need for a junior A hockey team (they don’t), concerts (there’s been none) and convention centres and trade shows (not many) they also clearly didn’t factor in the competition from Penticton.

We could avoid that unnecessary competition with a region-wide strategy for performing arts. If we have a venue large enough to attract better shows or even consistent sizes to attract shows to and through the Thompson-Okanagan circuit we might all be in business together.

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Speaking of co-operation, am I crazy in thinking the B.C. Interior could soon market itself as an international destination for cyclists?

We are painfully close to creating a continuous trail from the Shuswap, through Vernon to Kelowna and down to Osoyoos, perhaps even a return trip on the other side of Okanagan Lake. The Okanagan Rail Trail, the Trail of the Okanagans, the Okanagan Fur Brigade Trail, the Kettle Valley Rail Trail and others could be just one massive marketable trail designation if we can plug a few holes. Just imagine the RCMP Ride for Kids that never sees a car. 

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It’s remarkable how quickly the B.C. Government has deployed its housing strategy for the homeless, setting up supportive housing in nearly every community in the province.

But here’s the thing: there's no greater strategy. Homes, treatment, 24-hour staff and access to drugs just may be the answer or part of the answer in helping people solve mental health, addiction and social issues and is much, much cheaper than jail. But reporter Rob Munro has tried every ministry, government official and non-profit do-gooder involved to find out: If we are full bore on Housing First — what comes second?

And no one has an answer.

We are assured that despite the new government homes, waiting lists have decreased not one bit. As I have said before, I am content to fail in this direction for a bit so long as we are trying something — but I would feel far more comfortable if a stated goal was to help people help themselves. This has the potential to be a huge government albatross. 

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We are trying to find out more information about Vernon Fire Rescue service but so far, the City of Vernon will not release costs associated with fees for consultants hired to sort out the toxic work place in the department going back years without a formal Freedom of Information request. Nor will it release costs associated with the ongoing battle with the union over two workers fired for engaging in sexual activity in the fire chief’s office without a formal Freedom of Information request.

Stay tuned. 

So far, no one appears to be taking responsibility for what sounds like a terrible (and now worse) work situation — not the union, not the fire chief, not Vernon administrator Will 'Not Comment' Pearce nor Mayor Victor Cumming.

One thing about this whole mess, though, is absolutely clear — the punishment and ramifications levied against the woman implicated in this scenario, a dispatcher, far outweighs that of the man involved.

It seems terribly unfair. Consider:

  • There was no sex in the fire chief’s office. It’s not clear exactly what happened, but whatever it was, video captured of the event showed it took less than a minute and a half before they both realized their error in judgment and stopped.
  • Pearce and the fire chief wanted Captain Brent Bond gone long before this incident. When the opportunity arose, they opted to fire her as well, despite seven years of a clean service record and not giving her a proper venue to explain.
  • The Labour Relations Code arbitrators opted to reveal both of their identities.
  • Pearce had already disclosed to the entire fire department they were terminated for sexual activity in the fire hall. 
  • Marital relations for both of them were significantly affected.
  • Bond was in a position of some authority over the woman involved, as local president of the IAFF. It appears he also may have represented her husband, a firefighter in another shop.
  • It was Bond who was too familiar with the chief’s office and who was suspected of taking documents from the Chief’s office; it was Bond who invited her into the office to show off his tan lines. He was a Captain.
  • She got nothing from the arbitration process. Her position was about to be terminated a short time from when she was fired (Bond represented her and other workers in this issue) so all she lost was her severance. It begs the question: Why was she dragged into the arbitration at all? She had nothing to gain — her job was gone, only Bond could possibly get his job back. But she was exposed and publicly smeared with this all the same.
  • Arbitrators ordered Bond returned to work. He lost time without compensation and a partial, time-limited demotion but still has his job (unless the city's appeal is successful). He remained the union president throughout the arbitration. She got nothing — just her severance reinstated.
  • Everyone else involved in this entire arbitration process — the fire chief and assistant chiefs, the arbitrators, the captains, Pearce, even all but two of the lawyers involved — were men.

— Marshall Jones is the editor of iNFOnews.ca

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2019
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