Reinstatement of Fired Captain Upheld by BC Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of British Columbia has upheld a decision by the British Columbia Labour Relations Board to uphold an arbitration award that ordered the reinstatement a captain who engaged in sexual activity while on duty… with an on-duty dispatcher… in the fire chief’s office… lying to investigators about it… only to discover that it was caught on surveillance video the chief had installed.

The bizarre YCMTSU case involving Vernon Fire Department Captain Brent Bond and dispatcher Cara-Leigh Manahan has been in the headlines several times before. Perhaps this ruling will put the matter to rest once and for all. Both were fired on March 27, 2018, one day after lying to investigators about their tryst that occurred on March 25, 2018.

Vernon Firefighters’ Association, IAFF Local 1517 grieved the terminations resulting in Captain Bond being ordered reinstated by an arbitration panel. As quoted in the Supreme Court ruling, the arbitration panel concluded:

  • We therefore decide Mr. Bond and Ms Manahan’s sexual misconduct on March 25 and to a much lesser extent their deflection, deception and dishonesty on March 26 is worthy of harsh discipline.
  • For each, with their length of service, employment record and next morning offer to tell all and apologize rejected by the employer, we conclude dismissal was an excessive disciplinary response in all of the circumstances.
  • For Ms Manahan it is not necessary to determine what alternate discipline should be substituted. There is no job for her to return to … [Manahan’s dispatcher position was ultimately eliminated].
  • Mr. Bond had much longer service, a higher level of responsibility and one instance of a three-day suspension for unrelated misconduct.
  • Workplace role models do not have sexual relations with fellow employees in the firehall.
  • His conduct was wholly inconsistent with his rank and responsibilities …

The arbitration panel ordered Captain Bond to serve a 5-month suspension without pay, and a temporary demotion.

The city appealed the arbitration decision to the British Columbia Labour Relations Board, who upheld the decision concluding “both the misconduct and the dishonesty and found they merited ‘harsh discipline’, but that termination was excessive in the circumstances.”

The city then appealed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia contending the labour relations board’s decision was both “patently unreasonable,” and that the city was denied a “fair hearing.”

Justice Elizabeth McDonald concluded:

  • The law provides the British Columbia Labour Relations Board with exclusive jurisdiction to decide all questions arising from the Code, including the issues that it decided when the City undertook various review and reconsideration steps under the Code.
  • Therefore, the City’s petition for judicial review of the Board’s final decision does not provide me an opportunity to determine the correctness of the decision rendered by the Arbitration Panel and it matters not whether I agree or disagree with the Arbitration Panel’s decision.
  • To grant the relief sought by the City, I must be satisfied that the Board’s final decision is “patently unreasonable”.
  • This is a high standard to meet.
  • For the reasons [explained], I have concluded that the Board’s final decision, which is referred to as the “Reconsideration Decision”, is not patently unreasonable.
  • I reiterate that my conclusion on this application concerns the Reconsideration Decision alone.
  • I further reiterate that I am precluded, regardless of whether I agree or disagree, from taking a position on the merits of the Arbitration Award or the Board Decision.

Click here for a copy of the decision.

Here is a link to news video I could not embed.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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