Tantramar councillor seeking release of secret fire dept. report

Councillor Bruce Phinney

Tantramar Councillor Bruce Phinney says he’s hoping his council colleagues will support the release of a consultant’s report on persistent problems within the Sackville Fire Department that led to the resignations of about 17 volunteer firefighters over a four to five year span.

“There’s still, from what I’m hearing, issues within the fire department,” Phinney told reporters Tuesday after serving notice that he’ll move a motion at council’s next meeting on October 10th calling for the release of the Montana Consulting Group’s workplace assessment of Sackville Fire & Rescue.

“We need to turn around and find out exactly what was going on, what were the problems,” Phinney said.

He added that in the past, members of council were able to read reports they had authorized.

“We always used to read them and we used to have input on…some of the solutions to the problems,” he said.

“We haven’t had that opportunity and I feel like I’m still in the dark as to what’s going on, whether anything is being done.”

Fire dept. woes

The former town of Sackville paid Montana more than $27,000 to conduct the workplace assessment in 2021 after Warktimes published a series of stories about persistent bullying, favouritism, harassment and the flouting of safety rules within Sackville Fire & Rescue.

Montana gave an oral presentation to members of council on its 20 recommendations, but did not provide a written copy and the town posted a statement on its website saying that “since the results and recommendations are human resources related, they will not be made public and will remain confidential.”

Phinney says he requested a copy of the report last month under New Brunswick’s Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, but the town rejected his request on the grounds that it concerned an investigation into harassment or personnel issues, the same reason given when Warktimes asked for the report in 2021.

(In 2022, after I appealed that decision, the Ombud sided with the town ruling that the Montana report should not be made public.)

Phinney says he’s planning to ask his council colleagues for their support on October 10th in getting the Montana report released to council, the public and the media.

“Everybody needs to know what’s going on and what’s happening and I think my colleagues, I’m hoping to speak with them soon, and hope to be able to convince them to support me with this motion.”

Next steps

Phinney says he’s spoken to a couple of volunteers in the fire department about what’s been done to implement the recommendations in the Montana report.

“They feel that, actually, nothing’s really been done to alleviate the issues that were there,” he adds.

“I’ve only talked to a couple. I need to reach out and talk to the rest of them before next month, which I plan on doing, and seeing exactly if the issues are still continuing on from their perspective as well, not just the two that I spoke to.”

Phinney says he would not have voted to hire an outside consultant if he had known he would not be able to read the report.

“I feel I should be entitled to read that because I authorized the report and I also authorized the money to have it done and that is taxpayers’ money,” he says, “and people are asking me ‘how can you turn around and authorize such a thing and not be able to read it.'”

He says he would consider taking other steps if his council colleagues don’t support releasing the Montana report to the public.

“There are a couple of other options that are available. One would be [going to] the Ombudsman or the other one would be to go to court,” Phinney says.

“I’ll have to decide…after I find out when the motion is put forward and if it’s either rejected or accepted by my colleagues and we’ll go from there.”

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2 Responses to Tantramar councillor seeking release of secret fire dept. report

  1. Tim Reiffenstein says:

    Is it secret or is it confidential? Councilor Phinney has had trouble in past with council confidentiality…..

  2. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the People keeping Council connected to community. says:

    Town of Tantramar is in a state of Dysphoria and the worse is to come. Council has one duty and that is to serve Citizens.
    You do serve the Mayor
    You do not serve the staff.
    You do not serve the Minster of municipalities
    You do not serve the Premier of New Brunswick
    You do not serve even the Prime Minster.

    Is it Secret or is it confidential?

    Council should never be kept from any secrets or confidential material that prevents councilors down the road improving governance. Lock some stuff up for seven years, but not for ever. How do we undo a wrong. (MARSHALL CASE). This is one of the most secret and corrupt provinces in Canada according to a former United Nations corruption consultant.. Donald Bowser {working on spraying right now}

    Tantramar is no different. Giving your water service to an international big business whose debt as of June 2023 is several billion Euros. How do I know! Because as
    former councillor with oversight of Dorchester’s Water and sewerage I took courses and had a first hand tour of the then new facility in Saint John. Every councillor who does not insist that staff present proper business’ SOPPAD’s at regular meetings where all can see how the decisions are made need to get off their butts and read. No! you don’t want to be in the day to day decision making, but you need to know what they are and the unintentional consequences when you rubber stamp . You still don’t known on paper if the Audit thresh hold is $250, $2500 and probably $5000 or to make allowance for unexpected costs of amalgamation.
    Historically. Western democracies such as Canada have been regarded as some of the most transparent and least corrupt governments in the world. Not any more. It is not hard to check facts in Canada to see that local governments are not immune to unsavory issues.
    Looks like Tantramar is already suffering from possible corruption both directly in terms of missing revenue and indirectly in terms of increased taxes and interest payments.
    Viewing the New community through the lens of thirty years in local municipal affairs I’ve lost confidence and probable many of your fellow citizens as well who are increasingly resenting the lock down on information by this council. Citizens have to comply with the laws and rules while council has not found the courage to resist the demise of democratic traditions. You only have as much decision making authority as you have the courage to fight for.
    Citizens are to be as tough as nails on their representatives. Citizens expect you to identify kinds of quasi questionable misconduct (lack of transparency) that may occur in local government, whether by elected officials, or independent contractors and finally the blocking 0f constant debate as to what tools you need to develop in preventing fraud, bribery or corruption in your own local government..
    Finely top consideration as to be given to the transparency that was promised through watching council debate and traditional question period. It can be done as a separate meeting with the Mayor giving individual councilors in their assigned areas a chance to respond, Of course they need to know something. Knowledge is power and that is edited by the staff and Mayor.
    The press that gives oxygen to the truth must be permitted to ask questions.

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