December 13, 2018 6:45 pm
Updated: December 13, 2018 7:27 pm

‘His name has been dragged through the mud’: Naramata firefighters say suspended fire chief treated unfairly

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A group of Naramata firefighters who spoke to Global Okanagan on condition of anonymity said the name of their suspended fire chief has been “dragged through the mud” as a private firm hired by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) investigates allegations of bullying and harassment.

Tony Trovao, who volunteered with the Naramata fire department for 16 years before becoming fire chief in 2013, has been on paid leave since Oct. 22.

An internal memo issued by RDOS chief administrative officer Bill Newell to firefighters on Nov. 27, and obtained by Global News, said Trovao is accused of violating the RDOS harassment, bullying and discrimination policy, code of conduct and WorkSafe B.C. regulations.

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READ MORE: Naramata fire chief still on paid leave, officials tight-lipped

The firefighters who spoke to Global News said there is a small group of discontent members who are unhappy with the leadership of the fire department.

However, the members said Trovao champions respect in the workplace and they have never witnessed him bully or harass anyone; his motto being “honour, integrity, pride.”

They are troubled by how the allegations have been handled and accused the RDOS of creating an “oppressive” atmosphere to “get fire chiefs in line.” They said Trovao was unaware of the suspension until RDOS representatives escorted him off the Naramata fire hall property and took away his keys on Oct. 22.

The firefighters also expressed concern about the length of time it’s taking to complete the investigation.

The internal memo issued by the RDOS warned firefighters not to talk about the situation on social media.

“Recent posts on social media are indicative of a breach of the confidentiality requirements,” the letter said. “The posts can impact the investigation, either through a perception of condoning bullying behaviour or to intimidate witnesses in the investigation.”

READ MORE: OPP charge former Gananoque fire chief with fraud

The letter went on to say the posts were given to the investigator and the board of directors to determine if further disciplinary action should be taken.

“The regional district expects that during the investigation the members of the fire department will conduct themselves professionally and respect the need for confidentiality until this matter is resolved,” the letter concluded.

One member told Global News the warning letter was uncalled for and “arrogant.”

When contacted for comment, Karla Kozakevich, the regional district director for Naramata, said “the investigation company is working as quickly as possible. The RDOS does not discuss complaints raised against an employee.”

It is expected the third party investigate findings will be presented to the board of directors at a Dec. 20 closed-door meeting. Kozakevich did not commit to releasing the report publicly.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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