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Penticton  

Furious at fire department

Oliver town council got an earful Monday from a group of residents outraged by the reinstatement of a volunteer firefighter after he entered a peace bond last week to avoid trial on criminal charges.

Four women berated council, demanding the municipality reconsider the fire chief’s decision to reinstate Travis Bolenback.

Bolenback was charged with one count of unlawfully being in a dwelling, stemming from an incident involving his female neighbour in May 2017.

A deal was struck on what was supposed to be the opening of his trial Wednesday that saw him enter a 12-month peace bond, involving conditions to avoid his neighbour.

The peace bond means he avoids a criminal conviction, but had to admit in court his actions caused the complainant “reason to be fearful for her safety or that of her property.”

Throughout the court proceedings, Oliver fire chief Bob Graham maintained a conviction would result in a dismissal. Without that conviction, he reinstated Bolenback right after the deal was struck.

Resident Andrea Furlan laid into mayor and council, arguing the town’s firefighters hold a position of trust and should be held to a higher standard.

“Should bullying or predatory behaviour be condoned, or even allowed to be practised by people holding positions of trust in our community?” Furlan asked council, adding residents should not have to think about who comes to their home when they dial 911.

The victim in the incident sat in the gallery with supporters, but did not address council.

Shirley Zelinski, who has been championing public safety issues with her husband Michael Guthrie for the past few months, told council they “have a problem.”

“We know the community has a problem if he’s on the fire department, they are losing our trust,” she said.

“I really don’t think… that he’s the type of person that you want representing this town in a role of trust and respect,” she added.

Mayor Ron Hovanes applauded the women for having the courage to bring the situation before them.

“I think it's a travesty we had to wait this long for the courts to reach something that is, at the end of the day not as solid as perhaps many would want,” he said.

“We hear you,” he said, several times. “You’ve got our attention.”

Hovanes, however, said the matter would have to be discussed behind closed doors as it is a personnel issue involving a part-time employee of the municipality.

“There will be a conversation about this, but its not going to be done in a public venue,” he said.

Hovanes said he hoped that conversation would take place within the next two weeks.



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