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District defends civil suit

A former West Kelowna assistant fire chief was drunk while behind the wheel of a department vehicle, prior to having his employment terminated.

The assertion by the municipality is in response to a wrongful dismissal lawsuit brought against it by former assistant chief, Kerry Klonteig.

Klonteig is seeking $152,000 in damages.

He was dismissed back in Oct, 2013, allegedly for cause arising from an administrative driving prohibition while driving a district vehicle.

The lawsuit claims that the District of West Kelowna, "failed to implement alternative disciplinary actions or any progressive discipline consistent with its treatment of other district employees in similar circumstances."

It further states Klonteig was 48-years-old and making $101,581 annually plus performance bonuses and benefits at the time of his dismissal.

The lawsuit claims that he has been unable to find anything comparable since.

In its response filed last week, the district claims it has not treated an employee of the municipality holding a position of authority any differently in similar circumstances.

Vancouver based lawyer Carolyn M. MacEachern filed the response on behalf of the municipality.

MacEachern claims that on or about Oct 6, 2013, Klonteig, while off duty, drove the Fire Chief's truck, a District Fire Department vehicle, to a restaurant and a casino where he consumed alcohol.

She states Klonteig knew district policy prohibited personal use of department vehicles in these circumstances.

"After leaving the casino late at night Klonteig was pulled over by the RCMP at approximately 1:30 a.m. and was required to provide a breath or blood sample to measure his blood alcohol level which he advised the district he had failed," said MacEachern in her filing.

"Because the sample taken resulted in a determination of a blood alcohol level in excess of 0.08 the RCMP immediately seized his driver's licence and suspended his driving privileges for 90 days, as well as impound the District Fire Department vehicle the plaintiff was driving."

MacEachern stated the sanctions against Klonteig were very serious.

"By driving a District Fire Department vehicle while having a blood alcohol level that resulted in a 90-day suspension of his driver's licence and a District Fire Department vehicle being impounded, Klonteig posed a serious threat to his own safety and that of others and exposed the district to liability."

Klonteig was fired three days later.

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