Female firefighters urge City of Leduc to release results of department investigation
‘We hear you. It’s time for real and lasting change,' Mayor Bob Young says
Two women who have alleged they were harassed while working for Leduc Fire Services are urging the city to release the results of an external investigation into the department.
Christa Steele and Mindy Smith have applied for a class-action lawsuit against the City of Leduc, alleging decades of systemic harassment, bullying, discrimination, abuse and sexual assault.
Leduc fire chief George Clancy, who is not named in their statement of claim, resigned last month. At the time, city manager Derek Prohar told CBC News that Clancy had made a personal decision to leave.
Steele showed CBC an email Prohar sent to staff on March 29 in which he said that as a result of an investigation, two fire services employees were no longer working for the city.
Megan Wright, a firefighter and paramedic, resigned during last week's council meeting, alleging she too had been harassed.
None of the women's allegations have been proven in court.
At Monday's meeting, Steele and Wright urged the mayor and city council to release the results of an independent workplace investigation that Veritas Solutions conducted for the city.
Steele's daughter, Anika, and her friends, Carlie Timmons and Payton May, also spoke at the meeting, asking the mayor and council members about the integrity of the process of reporting abuse allegations to authorities.
Steele said retired detectives spent months listening to dozens of firefighters' stories and reviewing hundreds of documents.
"People who have seen the reports say they are explosive and very detailed," she told council.
"I was, in fact, contacted by police on the basis that this conduct at the fire department is likely criminal in nature."
Steele said she and Smith asked the city's human resources department to see the investigation results, but they were denied.
CBC has also asked for the report but a city spokesperson said it contains personal information and would not be made public.
Wright, who also asked for the report to be made public at last week's meeting, told council on Monday that freedom of information requests to obtain it have been denied.
Among the more than a dozen questions Wright posed to council on Monday was a request to see the contract the city signed with Veritas Solutions. She also asked why the city has decided to hire another external firm to review the organization.
'We hear you'
After the women spoke, Mayor Bob Young said, "We hear you. It's time for real and lasting change."
He said the city launched a third-party investigation last year after allegations were first brought to the city manager.
Young said the investigation report, which was delivered to the city in January, examined specific allegations and identified "areas of concern" but did not make recommendations.
He said council has been regularly updated on its findings, and in response to the report, there will be a national search for a new fire chief.
The city wants another company to review the organization to create "an action plan to ensure a holistic culture change," he said.
Young said fire services employees will be able to receive additional mental health counselling and that the city's administration has committed to increase communication.
"The issue has been and continues to be a top priority," he said.
After the meeting, Steele told CBC she and other women will continue to fight for a fire department that safe for employees.
"Hopefully the city starts listening but I don't think they liked what was in the report," she said.