Council considers action on harassment complaints

The report into the alleged sexual harassment complaints against Fire Chief Rob Bennett is done.

The investigator’s report into the alleged sexual harassment complaints against Fire Chief Rob Bennett has been completed and given to mayor and council.

“We’re reviewing the information that has been presented to us … and we will take this week to evaluate that information and from there we will conduct remedial actions as dictated,” said Mayor Rob MacDougall.

While the time frame for determining what, if any, action will be taken is unclear, MacDougall said he wants to see a decision soon.

“We’re hoping to do it as quickly as possible but at the same time we want to make sure that we’ve looked at all the information and made sure that any decisions we make are the right decisions,” he said.

Mayor and council are also still discussing whether or not to release any of the report.

Kirsten Rudolph, a firefighter who filed one of the two formal sexual harassment complaints against Bennett, said she understands council’s concerns over releasing some of the report, but she would have no issues with it being released herself.

“There’s a lot of dirt that would have been uncovered by that report and as far as I’m concerned, it is what it is and I have no issues with that being released because these things need to come out into the light so that they can be dealt with,” she said.

Rudolph also said she would like to see it released to those directly involved and know what the recommendations are and whether or not they have been followed through.

“This is a matter of optics, because the village does look like they’ve been hiding something,” she said.

The mayor said District’s anti-harassment policy itself may also be amended if necessary.

“This is the first incident (of harassment) that we are aware of as a council and so we’ll look at our policies and make sure that they’re meeting the needs of today’s society,” said MacDougall.

Previous concerns over Bennett’s behaviour had been brought forward to the District office administration in a letter from volunteer firefighters in April.

MacDougall said these were dealt with, and did not involve harassment.

Rudolph’s perspective was the concerns had not been dealt with, which is part of why she wants to see if there is follow-through on the report’s recommendations.

“If the solution is ineffective, it in essence hasn’t been dealt with because the problem is still there,” she said.

Rudolph said she is glad the investigation was done and she understands the council taking their time to consider the information in the report.

“They really do have to get this right,” she said.

Rudolph said many firefighters would likely leave if Bennett were to return.

“We’re not going to put up with it anymore,” she said.

Rudolph did say she and two other female firefighters have spoken to RCMP, who she said are also now conducting their own investigation.

The sexual harassment complaints have not been publicly confirmed and are still allegations.

Fire Chief Rob Bennett did not respond to messages prior to press time.