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Vernon gets extra time to make appeal decision in case of firehall hanky-panky

The City of Vernon has until April 4 to submit an appeal in an arbitration case where it was ordered to reinstate two fired employees. Megan Turcato / Global News

The City of Vernon is getting a few extra days to decide whether to appeal an arbitration decision which called for the city to reinstate two fired employees.

The pair, a fire captain and a fire dispatcher, were let go in March 2018 after being caught on camera fooling around in the fire chief’s office.

When the arbitration decision was made public, the city’s top bureaucrat made his “disappointment” with the decision clear and Vernon said it would explore a range of options.

READ MORE: Former fire chief sues City of Vernon after job loss

However, the city’s 15-day deadline to appeal the arbitration decision to the province’s labour relations board expired over the weekend with no appeal filed.

Instead, the board confirmed it has granted the city an extension till Thursday, April 4 to file an appeal.

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The city would not comment on the issue Monday refusing to even confirm whether or not it had appealed.

WATCH: (March 19) Vernon told to reinstate fired employees

Click to play video: 'Vernon told to reinstate fired fire department staff' Vernon told to reinstate fired fire department staff
Vernon told to reinstate fired fire department staff – Mar 19, 2019

The firefighter’s union local would only say it is following the grievance procedure.

However, the union did confirm the arbitration decision has yet to be implemented by the city, as the fire captain involved has yet to return to work.

The original arbitration decision calling for the pair to be reinstated was made by a three-person panel independent of the labour relations board on March 15.

It characterized the brief sexual encounter between the pair as consensual and spontaneous and reasoned “fire fighters cannot be expected to be saints.”

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The entire incident lasted less than 90 seconds while both were on shift on a Sunday morning.

It was captured by a camera that had been installed to make sure no one was looking in the fire chief’s locked filing cabinet

The arbitration decision agrees their actions were worthy of “harsh discipline,” but said “for each, with their length of service, employment record and next morning offer to tell all and apologize [that was] rejected by the employer…dismissal was an excessive disciplinary response.”

The decision called for both to be reinstated.

READ MORE: Vernon outsourcing fire dispatch to Kelowna

The dispatcher’s job has since been contracted out so a reinstatement would allow her to receive severance.

However, the arbitration decision found neither should be paid lost wages and the captain should be demoted for three years.

The city’s CAO was deeply critical of the decision when it was released.

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“Our emergency personnel have a duty to serve our taxpayers and respond with all due diligence not to be distracted,” Vernon’s chief administrative officer, Will Pearce, said in a statement in mid-March.

READ MORE: City of Vernon ordered to re-hire employees fired for firehall hanky panky

“It is not now and will never be acceptable or ethical for a direct supervisor to engage in a sexual relationship with a junior and subordinate staff.”

The pair at the centre of the scandal apologized for their actions. Their union says they’ve both suffered economically and have had to deal with rumours about the incident.

Even if Vernon appeals the decision, the labour relations board said the city would likely have to implement the arbitration decision until a ruling from the labour relations board was released.

A decision on an appeal could take up to six months.

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