Sackville mayoralty candidates respond to questions about fire service: Part Two

Sackville’s two mayoralty candidates are responding in their own ways to questions about bullying, harassment  and discrimination in the town’s fire service that has been going on for several years.

Acting Mayor Ron Aiken says he did not receive Warktimes e-mails asking for comment that were sent on Wednesday evening to his campaign e-mail address listed on the Elections New Brunswick website. He did receive a follow-up phone message on Thursday, but says he did not respond because he was feeling unwell.

Warktimes sent a series of questions to both mayoralty candidates similar to ones that CAO Jamie Burke and Fire Chief Craig Bower refused to answer on Tuesday.

Burke said then that he could not comment on personnel matters although the town posted a notice today on its website saying it “takes these allegations very seriously and we are initiating a process to review the matter.”

When asked who would conduct the review, what powers the reviewers would have and when the results might be known, Burke sent this e-mail response:

We have initiated a course of action, which is yet to be finalized. However, we will take the time we need to do it professionally and thoroughly, but we are not able to provide any further details at this time.

Mesheau’s response

Mayoralty candidate Shawn Mesheau responded to the Warktimes e-mail by saying that while he was too busy for an interview, he would provide a statement. He suggested the town needs to hire a qualified human resources manager or consultant to handle such issues.

“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.

Aiken’s response

Mayoralty candidate Ron Aiken responded today by repeating the Warktimes questions followed by his answers (in bold type):

Question #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. (I am attaching his letter.)

(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?

Aiken’s answer: This was a letter of resignation and, although contained some troubling comments, no formal complaint was filed. Without a complaint, we can’t do much. In any of the court proceedings we hear about in the news involving such accusations, no action is taken without a complaint.

Question #2. If you are elected Mayor, how would you address these concerns?

Aiken’s answer: I would encourage anyone, male or female, who felt harassed, discriminated against, or bullied to lodge a formal complaint to ensure a fair hearing of their issue.

Question #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?

Aiken’s answer: The way our current system works is that the concerns of the firefighters should be taken to their superiors and, if no resolution can be reached, then they can go through the grievance and appeal procedure. If the next Council wishes to, the Fire Department by-law could be re-written to allow more contact between firefighters and Liaison Councillors and/or the Mayor. I’d have no problem with that.

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?

Aiken’s answer: The grievance and appeal procedures are in place in the Bylaw. None of the complaints you have talked about have reached that stage since I’ve been doing the Mayor’s duties.

NOTE: All firefighters Warktimes interviewed said there was no grievance committee or effective appeal process in place, noting all complaints must go through the chain of command to the fire chief. CAO Jamie Burke has confirmed that the grievance committee outlined in the bylaw has not been used.

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3 Responses to Sackville mayoralty candidates respond to questions about fire service: Part Two

  1. IndieMediaEastcoast Canada says:

    This is a public witch hunt and bullying online of Chief Bowser and I would be very careful about proceeding with this line of ‘reporting’ Bruce Wark.

    • Monika Boehringer says:

      I would ask you respectfully to not try to bully and silence a journalist who is doing his job. If there is a problem in the fire department, it is now, before the municipal election, that town people need to know how the two mayoral candidates would handle this in their upcoming mandate. So far, the candidates’ respective responses are quite disappointing (and by the way, I personally don’t know you or your aliases, nor Bruce Wark nor the fire chief with whom you seem to be on friendly terms that you feel the need to intervene so much on his behalf).

  2. Les Hicks says:

    Bruce, in his capacity as a journalist, simply asked some questions of town officials regarding concerns and information that he received from multiple sources about possible issues with fire department management, upper levels of town management, and the grievance procedures that are available to volunteer members of the fire department. This information is important to Sackville residents who want to be kept informed about how their tax dollars are being used. At the risk of getting more verbal abuse from you on one of your many internet entities, I would remind you that you have expressed gratitude to Bruce in the past for keeping taxpayers informed about matters arising at town hall. What is different in this case that would lead you to accuse Bruce of bullying?

    I have no knowledge of the manner in which personnel issues are handled in the Sackville Fire Department (nor do you, I would hazard to guess), but I have been a member of a volunteer fire department in the past and I would think that both the Fire Chief and CAO would want to address any issues or concerns that department members have for the sake of efficient operations within the department.

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