Penticton and South Okanagan
Nov 23, 2012 / 5:06 pm
A veteran firefighter who fought fires in the Keremeos area for 18 years, is now fighting a legal battle to get his job back.
Doug MacLeod appeared in small claims court in Penticton Friday for a pretrial conference for the notice of claim for wrongful dismissal, in which he has named the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen and the Keremeos Volunteer Fire Department as co-defendants.
MacLeod, who is representing himself, submitted a list of witnesses, evidence and documents. A lawyer for the RDOS attended via telephone.
MacLeod, who is self employed, said outside the courtroom his situation began when the fire department was receiving up to 150 calls in 2010 and the department was being managed in the same manner as always.
After other firefighters approached him, he became the voice for the group.
"It had turned into a real job not just a second job and when you start doing 150 calls a year you have to treat it differently than a small volunteer group," he said.
The conflict escalated with the response time getting slower and the size of the crew getting smaller, with two or three officers carrying the brunt of the workload, he said.
He says some took his concerns as a way to undermine the authority of the chief.
In early 2011, he was called into a meeting with the department and the RDOS and told he needed to take time off for stress.
He did so. But in March was again called into a meeting and handed a letter of termination.
"I had never been fired from any job before," he said. "I was absolutely flabbergasted and heartbroken."
To make the situation worse, about five other firefighters also quit when he got fired, according to MacLeod.
Then in the summer he was contacted by the RDOS to attend a meeting for the board to ratify the termination. As he learned more about the specific allegations against him and discovered the department wasn't allowed to fire him the way they did, he decided to take legal action.
There was more negotiating but the board ultimately backed the fire chief and they terminated him without cause in August leading to him filing the claim.
Both Dale Kronebusch, emergency services supervisor with the RDOS, and Fire Chief Jordy Bosscha, said they did not wish to comment out of respect for MacLeod.
There is no date set for the trial.
MacLeod hopes the outcome will be he gets back the job he loves.
"What is a volunteer firefighter worth is the big question here," he said. "All I am asking for is to be put back on the fire department because I miss it like you wouldn't believe and to bring back others who quit because we need veteran firefighters in the fold."
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