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.”
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.”