A retired district chief with the London Fire Department remembers contacting the Ontario Human Rights Commission after he said a female colleague was reduced to tears for trying to address her workplace concerns with officials.
It’s the latest development in the ongoing story of alleged workplace harassment at London City Hall.
Jim Stockdale said his female co-worker wanted to discuss a lack of women’s bathrooms at a fire hall where she’d worked, and about a lack of maternity policy, and she’d approached him to sit in and witness the phone call she made to the deputy chief.
That phone call happened between eight to 10 years ago, said Stockdale. He remembers both parties were respectful, and that the deputy chief said he or then-fire chief John Kobarda would call her back in 30 minutes.
Then the alarm sounded, and he was called away.
“By the time we got back, I saw her sitting in the back of the hall sobbing.”
Stockdale opened a file with the human rights commission the following workday, in his own name, in case his colleague needed it to fix the problem.
He doesn’t believe it was a coincidence that he was overlooked for a deputy chief job, posted two months later.
Stockdale went to a city hall fire liaison after learning he hadn’t secured a job interview despite being qualified for the job, and inquired whether Kobarda had any say in who would move through the selection process.
Stockdale was told that Kobarda did have a say in the selection process.
“I said here’s why I think I’m not getting an interview, and she almost fell out of her chair.”
The hiring process was stalled for 10 months, Stockdale said, after he said he would call in a lawyer with the Human Rights Commission. He said he was given an interview through a third party called in to help, as they did interviews with every applicant. He didn’t get the job.
Stockdale feels that Kobarda’s abrupt retirement last Monday is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough to fix the problem.
“They need to bring in a chief who understands the department, understands the people, and is able to move the department forward.”
No reason was given for Kobarda’s surprise retirement. Lori Hamer will serve as acting fire chief until a replacement is hired.
The City of London also needs to be addressed, Stockdale said.
“City hall has been very difficult to deal with, and it always seemed that anything that went to city hall died very quickly there. There was no resolve that ever seemed to be adequate.”
The city hasn’t returned 980 CFPL’s calls for comment.
980 CFPL has made multiple requests for comment to retired fire chief Kobarda but have not yet received a response.
A third-party organization has received more than 70 workplace complaints about various civic departments, including the City, the police service and the fire department.
Last week, the London Professional Fire Fighters Association voted no confidence in assistant deputy fire chief Jack Burt during a union meeting, according to sources within the London Fire Department.