Sackville firefighter calls on town council to get involved in fixing troubled fire service

Sackville Firefighter Laura Thurston addressing town council

Sackville Town Council has been asked to take a more direct role in solving persistent personnel problems within the town’s fire department.

During a presentation to council last night, volunteer firefighter Laura Thurston requested that council ask to see the final report from the consulting firm that is assessing allegations of bullying, harassment, favouritism and discrimination against women within the fire service.

“To help avoid a potential conflict of interest and ensure the integrity of the information, I’m asking council to consider meeting, discussing and approving obtaining the full, detailed workplace assessment report and recommendations directly from Montana Consulting for both Sackville Fire & Rescue and the employees of the town,” Thurston said.

She also said that when she asked the consulting firm who would receive their final report and recommendations, she was told they would be provided to CAO Jamie Burke.

“As an official within our direct chain of command, this potentially could create a conflict of interest,” Thurston added, especially if council relied on a summary of the report prepared by the CAO.

Thurston told Warktimes in April, that both Burke and former CAO Phil Handrahan declined several times to meet when she tried to bring problems within the fire department to their attention.

“They wouldn’t even sit with me; they wouldn’t listen to what I had to say,” she said.

Action plan

During later interviews last night with Warktimes and CHMA News, Thurston elaborated on her calls for everyone, including members of town council, to work together to solve the fire department’s problems.

“I expect to see an action plan coming out of this report,” she said.

“We’re all in this for a common goal, to make the fire department better, to make it the place that we all know that it can be because the work that we do there is something that we’re all very proud of,” Thurston told CHMA’s Erica Butler.

Mayor’s response

Mayor Shawn Mesheau

Mayor Mesheau responded to Thurston’s request by saying that council will wait until the workplace assessment is complete before it decides on any next steps.

“Council will determine at that point in time if anything further needs to take place based on what comes through the CAO,” the Mayor said later during the public question period.

“I think we’re getting ourselves ahead of things here,” Mesheau added.

“Ultimately, we have to let this process see itself through and council has indicated in the past that they’re committed to seeing this process through and we’ll eagerly await to see what comes from it.”

Thurston says that while she didn’t expect an answer from council last night, she was disappointed that the mayor said council would wait to see what comes from the CAO after the workplace assessment is complete.

“To me, I feel that’s unacceptable,” she told CHMA.

“I think that my request to get that report independently themselves is there and I would simply expect an answer as to why they don’t feel that they can do that.”

To listen to Erica Butler’s radio interview with Laura Thurston, click here.

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8 Responses to Sackville firefighter calls on town council to get involved in fixing troubled fire service

  1. Christian Corbet says:

    Should a lawsuit come of all, this town council, including the CAO, will have their tails tucked between their legs.

  2. Barb Smith says:

    It is kind of sad that our fire dept is getting smaller on account of these problems and our new council is passing the buck already. .The CAO was unwilling to do anything before, he picked the consulting firm to do the investigation and the report comes back to him. How convenient is that. When we have to depend on backup from Dorchester or Point de Bute every time we have a fire because this is getting swept under the rug we will soon not have a fire department. Maybe we should go back to having the dept members pick their own chief.

  3. Monika Boehringer says:

    The problem can be summed up with a quote by the mayor: “Council will determine at that point in time if anything further needs to take place based on what comes through the CAO,” This is the same CAO who refused to listen to a female firefighter before, the same CAO who’ll prepare the summary of the report. It’s like the minister of defense refusing to look at a piece of evidence presented to him by the ombudsman. Don’t look or listen when a woman is talking about problems in the (respective) institution…. (Uncomfortable) Action might be called for…

  4. Kathy Best says:

    Jamie Burke will cover up what he needs in order to make himself look good. Unfortunately I don’t think things will ever change at SFD until they go back to electing their own FC…

  5. Les Hicks says:

    Why is it that none of our elected councillors, or our mayor, see the obvious potential conflict of interest created by the town’s CAO initiating an investigation into claims of mismanagement, including problems with the chain of command right up to the Manager of Corporate Affairs and the CAO, and then having the authority to decide which findings of the investigation are released to Town Council?

    I am not saying that Mr. Burke would intentionally hide any of the findings relating to his actions, or lack of actions, in regards to the complaints, but for the sake of transparency the CAO should not be the person initiating or controlling the results of an investigation like this.

  6. Sue says:

    Why is it that decisions made in this town constantly fail when it comes to making
    Good decisions or wise decisions. They seem to not want to do much of anything.

  7. Sharon Hicks says:

    According to the town’s Organizational Chart, at the very top of the hierarchy list we see “MAYOR AND COUNCIL”. Then on the line below them, we see: “CAO”. That means COUNCIL has authority over the CAO, and not the other way around.

    The chart also indicates the ‘chain of command’ for firefighters is through the Fire Chief, up through the CAO, and finally up to Mayor and Council. This means the CAO himself is in the ‘direct’ line of the actual process being investigated, so why should he be the one who receives and interprets AND acts on the report? Is that not a form of Conflict of Interest?

    The fact that the Mayor and Councillors are satisfied to sit back and wait for whatever summarized version they receive from Mr Burke, is very alarming. The statement was made that ‘after they receive the summary from the CAO’, THEN they will decide whether they need to obtain more information.

    But how will they even KNOW whether they have received sufficient information, if they have not seen the original full report?

    Without total transparency, nobody will ever know whether Council (or anyone else) receives an accurate interpretation of the contents and directives of this report.

  8. IndieMediaEastcoast Canada says:

    Thanks for covering this one Bruce.

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