Re: Smear campaign

A letter of response to a previous letter discussing coverage of a sexual harassment investigation.

Editor and the Citizens of Fort St. James:

In the Sept. 18 edition of The Courier, Allison Zaporozan made an excellent point regarding confidentiality in sexual harassment cases and the fairness of the investigation process (Letters to the Editor – “Smear Campaign”) with respect to the reporting of harassment complaints against the former Fire Chief, Rob Bennett.

As the husband of one of the complainants, I have firsthand knowledge of the complaints.

It was only after considerable deliberation that the complainants decided to “go public,” exposing not just Mr. Bennett, but also themselves to the judgement and rumour-mongering of the community.

The decision to inform The Courier of the allegations was founded in a real concern – based on previous experience with complaints by fire department members regarding Mr. Bennett’s behaviour – that the subsequent investigation and actions would be biased against the complainants.

Indeed, this concern was borne out:  despite the District’s own policy to inform both the complainants and the defendant of the outcome of the investigation “in writing, as soon as possible,” the complainants did not hear of the results until more than three weeks after the District received the investigation report, and received a written statement from the District only in response to a formal request by the complainants for such.

Also, again despite the District’s policy to maintain the confidentiality of the investigation, it was at a meeting with the fire department members – not the complainants themselves – that the results were first made known.

Further, in a  press release on the matter (August 30, 2013), the District acted as a spokesman for Mr. Bennett, issuing the only public statement of Mr. Bennett’s position on the matter.

One must wonder, without the cold light of public scrutiny, how far under the carpet would the District have swept the complainants?




Philip Smith