London

Deputy fire chief taken off job pending code of conduct investigation

London's assistant deputy fire chief, Jack Burt, has been taken out of the workplace pending a code of conduct investigation, according to union official.

More than one union member filed complaints regarding Jack Burt's alleged behaviour

The president of a union representing London's firefighters says assistant deputy fire chief Jack Burt was taken off the job because of a code of conduct investigation, sparked by complaints from his members. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

London's assistant deputy fire chief, Jack Burt, has been taken out of the workplace pending a code of conduct investigation, according to a union official.

Jason Timlick, the president of the London Professional Firefighters Association, told CBC News that members lodged formal complaints about Burt last week.

He wouldn't say how many complaints, citing his members' privacy, but he confirmed there was more than one.  

"When this all happened last week and my members had the courage to step forward and lodge the complaints, I got the intake officer on the phone and made sure they were in a room within an hour filing their complaints," he said, applauding the City of London's quick action.

Allegations unproven

The nature of complaints made against Burt are unclear, but the city's code of conduct for employees has a list of violations which includes harassment, bullying, abuse of authority, falsification of records, manipulation, political promotion, breaches of confidentiality and criminal activity,

Timlick said he also advocated Burt be taken off the job to ensure a safe and respective workplace.

"Within a day, they made the decision he would be out of the workplace for an undetermined amount of time and my understanding of that is until the investigation is complete and the findings come to a resolution."

CBC News has reached out to Burt for comment and at this time, all the accusations are unproven. 

Timlick hopes the investigation is swift and anticipates it will be done by a third party investigator.

"I don't think it optically looks good that the corporation investigates their own manager in a matter like this, and I think it's more fair that a third party be hired. I believe that's the road they'll take."

Wave of complaints

Rubin Thomlinson LLP, a Toronto law firm, was tasked with investigating harassment at the City of London after a wave of bullying and harassment complaints came to light in the spring of 2018. Several of those complaints came from the fire department.

Around the same time, former fire chief John Kobarda retired abruptly and the city's firefighters – following a membership vote -- said they had no confidence in Burt.  

Two months later, the London Professional Firefighters Association voted to restore confidence in the assistant deputy fire chief.

The law firm did a "good job" in both its review and recommendations, said Timlick, and it's up to the city to take action now. 

"Only time will tell if the corporation's policies will improve and the process will improve, specifically the length of time things take. This will obviously be a good test of that."

About the Author

Liny Lamberink

Reporter/Editor

Liny Lamberink is a reporter in London, ON. She can be reached at liny.lamberink@cbc.ca