So far, Sackville’s two mayoralty candidates are not answering questions about what they would do, if elected, about allegations of discrimination, harassment and bullying in the town’s fire department.
Acting Mayor Ron Aiken did not respond to e-mails and a phone message requesting an interview, but now says he did not receive the e-mails sent to his campaign address, but only the phone message. He also says he plans to discuss the fire department on his Facebook campaign page.
For his part, Councillor Shawn Mesheau declined to be interviewed, but sent a statement suggesting that the town needs to hire a qualified human resources manager or consultant.
“Anytime that allegations of this nature are brought forward they need to be taken seriously. I am genuinely concerned which is something I have conveyed,” Mesheau’s statement says.
“As a sitting councillor I am legally obligated to ensure confidentiality in matters of this nature,” it adds.
To read, Mesheau’s full statement, click here.
The questions that were e-mailed to Aiken and Mesheau at 9:47 p.m. on Wednesday, April 14 are similar to ones that CAO Jamie Burke and Fire Chief Craig Bowser declined to answer on Tuesday. Here they are:
1. Firefighters who resigned in 2018 and 2020 say they sent their letters of resignation to the Chief and the CAO with copies to Town Council. The most recent one from Kevin Scott was sent to members of Town Council in December, then re-sent last month when he received no response from members of council.
(a) Were you aware of his letter?
(b) What steps did you take to look into allegations of bullying and favouritism contained in his letter.
(c) What did you do to investigate allegations of discrimination against a female member of Sackville Fire & Rescue?
2. If you are elected Mayor, how would you address these concerns?
3. The new Mayor will appoint the Liaison Councillors for Public Safety. How would you ensure that you and the Liaison Councillors have more contact with volunteer firefighters so that members of council can hear their concerns?
4. A number of firefighters — both current and former — say the Grievance Committee and Appeal procedures outlined in Bylaw 248, which governs the Fire Department, have never been implemented. If you are elected Mayor, will you commit to seeing that these Grievance and Appeal procedures are put in place?
Candidates need to address issues
A Mount Allison University professor who specializes in municipal affairs says candidates seeking election to town council need to be forthright in dealing with problems in Sackville Fire & Rescue.
“I think candidates have to promise that they will get to the bottom of things,” says Geoff Martin, who served on Sackville town council himself from 1998 to 2004.
Martin adds that while candidates may be right to say that the results of an internal investigation would remain private, they should at least be promising to push for one.
“We’re in an election season now and I think that candidates for council and mayor could promise some specific actions that will be taken to provide some assurance to the voters that the voters can vote for them and the situation will be dealt with and not swept under the carpet,” he says.