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West Kelowna  

Months for ruling on firing

It could be months before a judgment is made in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit involving a former West Kelowna assistant fire chief and the District of West Kelowna.

Kerry Klonteig is seeking more than $150,000 after he was fired for drinking and driving in the chief’s truck in 2013.

The trial concluded on Friday, but defence lawyer Barry Anderson said the judge didn't give any sense of how long it might be until a decision is made.

“Could be a month, or a few months,” he said.

Klonteig and his wife went to dinner at Kelowna’s Lake City Casino on the evening of Oct. 6, 2013.

He describes drinking 12 ounces of wine, half an ounce of liquor, half an ounce of rum and 36 ounces of beer during dinner and while gambling.

Klonteig then made the decision to drive in Fire Chief Wayne Schnitzler’s truck, which was owned by the municipality.

“I had felt OK, I had a meeting the next day, and we didn't have a vehicle of our own and I didn’t feel comfortable leaving the chief's truck, that particular vehicle, downtown,” court heard on Jan. 9. “So we made the decision to drive home.”

He was pulled over by an RCMP officer while crossing the William R. Bennet bridge and failed two breathalyzer tests.

Two days later, he was handed a 90-day driving suspension, a 30-day impoundment of Schnitzler’s truck and was fired.

Klonteig argued his employer “failed to implement alternative disciplinary actions” and says they should have given him 18 months of notice prior to his firing.

He filed a civil claim against the district in May 2014, seeking more than $152,000 in damages plus other special damages to be determined by the court.

Klonteig admitted he made a mistake and said “this was an individual incident that happened as a mistake on my personal off-duty time,”

Schnitzler described him as a “strong leader,” who brought “a wealth of knowledge and understanding of fire service” when he was hired in 2008.

Klonteig worked as a firefighter and assistant fire chief at the Kelowna Fire Department for 13 years before taking on the role of assistant fire chief position with West Kelowna in 2008.



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Watch for rock on highway

Careful on your commute.

Rock debris was reported overnight on Highway 97 at Drought Hill in Peachland.

A Castanet reader reported rocks in the southbound lane as of late Monday.

"It looks like a small portion of rock broke off from the hillside and tumbled down. It's in a corner and is hard to see in the dark," the tipster said.

It's not known if the debris has been cleaned up as of early this morning.



Westbank mall sold

Kelowna's Kondola family are the new owners of the Westbank Shopping Centre. The family, which owns West Kelowna’s City Furniture, today announced they have closed a deal to buy the building.

The purchase means both the management and ownership of the centre will now be local.

According to a firm involved in the sale, the Kondola family plans to update the mall over the next few months, but "no major changes are planned at this point."

For more on the sale, including how much the centre sold for, check out the full story on Castanet's sister business news website, Okanagan Edge.



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Rescued from icy trail

A female hiker was rescued from a West Kelowna trail, Friday, after injuring her ankle.

The woman apparently slipped in snowy conditions on the beach trail off Sunnyside Road, about 2 p.m.

 

Firefighters and paramedics responded to the scene, and brought the woman to a waiting ambulance on an all-terrain stretcher.

She was taken to Kelowna General Hospital at 2:45 p.m. to be checked over.



Caught napping, literally

A West Kelowna man with 13 outstanding warrants was arrested Thursday after falling asleep at a commercial property the night before.

Just after 8 a.m., employees of a business on the 1500 block of Stevens Road called police after finding a man on the property while they were opening the business.

While employees initially thought he had broken in, it turned out the 34-year-old had attended the business on Wednesday and fell asleep inside his vehicle.

The business closed for the evening, trapping the man inside until the next morning.

“When our officers arrived on scene and positively identified the individual, they subsequently executed a total of 13 outstanding warrants for his arrest out of Kelowna,” said Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey. “Those warrants included charges such as breach of his release conditions, failure to appear in court and possession of a controlled substance.”

The man remains in police custody.



SUV and car collide

A car and SUV collided on Boucherie Road, south of Montigny Road, in West Kelowna this afternoon.

The crash happened on snow-slicked streets about 1:30 p.m. A tow truck arrived on scene shortly after 2 p.m.

No one was injured in the collision. 

One southbound lane was closed while police investigated the scene. 



Snow easy parking solution

How do you get people to move their vehicles off the street during a snow event?

And, what exactly is a snow event?

West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater has directed staff to seek amendments to the city's traffic bylaw that would prohibit on-street parking during snowfalls.

Findlater said there are still bulges of snow along the centre line of some streets because plows have had to work around parked vehicles. There have also been reports of damage to some vehicles caused by plows.

While acknowledging there are issues with hillside developments and neighbourhoods where residents don't have access to off-street parking, Coun. Rick de Jong agreed something needs to be done.

"I certainly like the idea in Kelowna where, during a significant snow event, (the city) can declare off-street parking only for a period of time, and when that significant event passes and the plows have done their job and the roads are safe again, it can be lifted and you can go back to on street parking if necessary," said de Jong.

Coun. Bryden Winsby noted the city will have to be clear as to just what constitutes a snow event.

"People don't necessarily know what a snow event is. The attitude of some people is not going to change, so we have to determine what we are going to do if they don't move their vehicles," he said. "It's not as easy as banning parking."

Coun. Duane Ophus, who voted against the motion, said whatever the city does, it won't be easy. He said if the city decides to go ahead, it will increase the cost of snow removal.

"Basically, you have to go neighbourhood by neighbourhood, the same as we do for street sweeping, you put the little sign up that says get your car off the street because your street is going to be cleared in the next couple of days," said Ophus.

"Good luck trying to figure out how that is going to work."



Cops called to council

RCMP had to be called in to break up an overflow crowd at Tuesday night's Peachland council meeting.

Police were called in after the overflow crowd refused to lessen their numbers after being ordered to do so by the fire chief.

Peachland CEO Elsie Lemke says seating capacity in council chambers is 74. About 90 people pushed their way in, prompting a demand that 16 people vacate the room.

"The room was over capacity, and the fire chief had to ask people to leave and go into another room we had set up so people could watch and listen to the council meeting. People were refusing to leave, which creates a dangerous situation to all people involved," said Lemke.

"So, we had to contact the RCMP. By the time the RCMP got there, we did have people co-operating and moving on to the next room."

The issue that attracted the crowd was an amendment to the municipality's Official Community Plan that would allow for five-storey development downtown on Beach Avenue.

The current OCP suggests buildings of only three storeys, prompting opponents to go to court to get the project scaled back.

Lemke said the packed chamber did get at bit noisy, but participants were "trying" to be respectful of the process.

The OCP amendment passed first and second readings by a 5-0 margin. One councillor was away, while Coun. Terry Condon removed himself due to a conflict of interest.

Condon has thrown his support behind Friends of Beach Avenue, the group protesting the size of the development. His support included a $20 financial contribution.

He told Castanet he fails to see where he receives any personal benefit other than as a member of the community at large, but said the issue had been raised by both the mayor and administration.

"I was persuaded to go on record with a conflict of non-pecuniary interest, and let the process move on," said Condon.

The OCP amendment will now go to a full public hearing Jan. 30 at the Community Centre gym.



Truck, car collide on hwy

A two vehicle collision caused traffic delays in West Kelowna on Wednesday.

The incident occurred on Highway 97 and Ross Road at about 2:45 p.m.

Traffic was stalled for 30 minutes. 

It appears no one was seriously injured in the collision.

Police and paramedics attended the scene where the car and pickup truck collided.



Fiery fracas over firing

A former West Kelowna assistant fire chief is seeking more than $150,000 from the District of West Kelowna after he was fired for drinking and driving in the chief's truck in 2013.

Kerry Klonteig's wrongful dismissal lawsuit against the District of West Kelowna began in Kelowna Supreme Court this week.

Klonteig worked as a firefighter and assistant fire chief at the Kelowna Fire Department for 13 years, before getting the assistant fire chief position with West Kelowna in 2008. Fire Chief Wayne Schnitzler called him a “strong leader” who brought “a wealth of knowledge and understanding of fire service" when the hire was made.

In 2013, Klonteig was making an annual salary of $101,581, plus performance bonuses and benefits.

On the evening of Oct. 6, 2013, Klonteig and his wife went to dinner at Kelowna's Lake City Casino, where he says he drank 12 ounces of wine, half an ounce of liqueur, half an ounce of rum and 36 ounces of beer over dinner and while gambling afterwards.

Klonteig chose to drive home, in Schnitzler's truck, which was owned by the District of West Kelowna.

“I had felt OK, I had a meeting the next day, and we didn't have a vehicle of our own and I didn’t feel comfortable leaving the chief's truck, that particular vehicle, downtown,” Klonteig said in court Tuesday. “So we made the decision to drive home.”

Just before 2 a.m., Klonteig was pulled over by an RCMP officer while crossing the William R. Bennett bridge, and failed two breathalyzer tests, blowing over 0.08 per cent blood alcohol content.

“I admit I made a mistake,” Klonteig said.

On Oct. 9, two days after Klonteig was handed a 90-day driving suspension and a 30-day impoundment of Schnitzler's truck, Klonteig was fired.

In his notice of civil claim, filed against the District in May 2014, Klonteig argues his employer “failed to implement alternative disciplinary actions” and says they should have given him 18-months of notice prior to his firing.

Klonteig is seeking more than $152,000 in damages from the District, plus other special damages to be determined by the court, for what he feels was a wrongful dismisful.

On Tuesday, Klonteig told the court he has since applied for assistant fire chief positions and fire chief positions in Kamloops, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, White Rock, Nelson and Kimberley, and applied for a firefighter position in Kitimat. No fire department has hired him.

He now works at Superior Fire Control, an industrial fire protection company in Northern B.C., on a fracking site.

Klonteig says he had a clean 23-year record in the fire service before the 2013 drinking and driving incident.

The letter of termination the District sent to Klonteig states: “This is simply unacceptable for someone in your position whose job is to protect the public safety” and “this incident also reflects poorly on our department and the District.”

Klonteig argued the incident did not reflect poorly on the fire department.

“This was an individual incident that happened as a mistake on my personal off-duty time,” he said. “It's a reflection on myself and the bad decision that I made at the time.”

The trial is expected to conclude Friday.  



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