The B.C. Supreme Court has dismissed a judicial review application from the City of Vernon to overturn a decision of a reconsideration panel of the Labour Relations Board.
The city’s application arose out of the termination of a Vernon Fire Rescue Service’s captain for engaging in sexual activity with a lower-ranking staff member in an open manner while on duty in the fire hall. The city fired the captain in 2018.
The BC International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) fought the termination and the matter proceeded to a hearing before a three-member arbitration board with a majority of the board ruling that while “harsh discipline” was warranted, termination was excessive.
One of the three members of the board did conclude termination was the only rational outcome.
The city did not agree that termination was excessive and has pursued the avenues of appeal available to it, first to the Labour Relations Board and more recently to the BC Supreme Court.
“The appeal to the court was not an opportunity for the court to directly review the decision of the arbitration board,” wrote the city in a release issued late Monday afternoon, Feb. 22. “Instead, the court was reviewing a decision of a reconsideration panel of the Labour Relations Board. The court could only overturn the labour board’s decision if it concluded the decision was “patently unreasonable,” a standard which the judge acknowledged is high.”
The court dismissed the city’s application on the basis that the high standard of “patent unreasonableness” had not been met.
The decision of the court is not an endorsement of the decision of the majority of the arbitration board or of the labour board decisions.
“The judge expressly stated in her reasons that she was precluded, regardless of whether she agreed or disagreed, from taking a position on the merits of the arbitration award or the labour board decisions,” said the city. “The court acknowledged more than once that its role was only to review the reasoning in the preceding decision with reference to the high standard which was applicable.”
While the city was aware of the hurdle it was facing, it says it is disappointed in the court’s decision, and remains of the view that termination is the appropriate outcome for egregious misconduct of this nature, particularly in circumstances where the trust necessary in the employment relationship has been lost.
“The city will continue to set high standards of service, ethics, integrity and honesty for its employees. I believe our taxpayers would expect nothing less,” said Will Pearce, City of Vernon chief administrative officer. “The conduct of these two individuals should not detract from the professionalism and integrity of the many proud employees of the city.”