The District of West Kelowna is flatly denying the former assistant fire chief was dismissed without reasonable notice or owed any financial compensation, in court documents filed this week.
Kerry Klonteig filed the civil claim against the district last month, asking for more than $150,000 in damages following what he deemed to be a hasty dismissal. The gist of his legal argument was that he was let go with little notice for “an administrative driving prohibition,” and it’s caused him significant hardship.
“Based on his qualifications, experience, age and the difficulty he will encounter in finding similar and alternate or alternative employment, a notice period of 18 months is appropriate,” writes his lawyer, Terry McCaffrey in a notice of claim.
“Since he was terminated by the district, Mr. Klonteig has sought other reasonably comparable positions without success. Mr. Klonteig therefore claims his job search expense and any relocation expenses he may incur as special damages. The plaintiff will prove his statement of special damages in advance of the trial.”
District representatives declined an offer to comment on the case at that time, but filed a response to the civil claim in Supreme Court this Wednesday.
“The plaintiff (Klonteig) held a position of leadership and authority with the district in a role devoted to the protection of public safety. 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, the plaintiff posed a significant threat to his own safety and that of others and exposed the district to liability,” reads the document, signed by lawyer Carolyn M. MacEachern.
“The district was entitled to terminate the plaintiff’s employment for just cause and, therefore, the plaintiff is not entitled to notice or payment in lieu thereof.”
They add further light to the nature of Klonteig’s dismissal throughout the document.
“On or about Oct. 6 2013, the plaintiff, while off duty, drove the fire chief’s truck, a district fire department vehicle, to a restaurant and a casino where he consumed alcohol,” the document reads.
“After leaving the casino late at night, the plaintiff 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 the plaintiff advised the district he had failed.”
It’s alleged the sample taken read above .08 and the Mounties immediately seized Klonteig’s driver’s licence and suspended his driving privileges for 90 days. They also as impounded the district vehicle.
“District practice, of which the plaintiff was aware, prohibits the personal use of district fire department vehicles vehicles in these types of circumstances,” it reads.