Nfld. & Labrador

'I feel like I've walked into the Twilight Zone': terminated Spaniard's Bay employee

A Spaniard’s Bay employee who was terminated this week says he’s disgusted at how the town council is reacting to Brenda Seymour’s allegations of sexual harassment.
Steve Smith's job with the Spaniard's Bay town council was terminated this week, after he told council it was mishandling Brenda Seymour's allegations of harassment. The town says his job was cut for budgetary reasons. (CBC)

A Spaniard's Bay employee who was terminated this week says he's disgusted at how the town council is reacting to allegations of sexual harassment within the fire department.

"They simply do not have the capacity to understand the issues...They don't understand, and the sad part is, most of the community doesn't understand," said Steve Smith.

"I feel like I've walked into the Twilight Zone and it's 1940."

Smith was the town's enforcement officer for five weeks.

His job was terminated at a council meeting Tuesday.

It was the same meeting when 20 members of the volunteer fire department resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment from the lone female firefighter, Brenda Seymour.

Town officials say that Smith's termination was for budgetary reasons, however, he doesn't believe that.

Smith says he was let go because he had told council it was mishandling Seymour's allegations of harassment.

Town doesn't recognize sexual harassment, Smith says

Smith said that most people on the council have no conception of what sexual harassment is and are incapable of dealing with this situation.

"The facts are not in question here; that a video was put on in a training session," he said.

"We know for a fact that the fire chief was in that meeting. He was standing there and no action was taken against the individual who put on the movie."

"If you do not have the capacity as a councillor and as a mayor to see that that is sexual harassment and that you need to take action in accordance with the act, then you shouldn't be in that position."

''To be here with signs held up, 'Support our men' in 2016 seems ludicrous..."- Steve Smith

Smith said he's had several conversations with people in Spaniard's Bay who don't believe that putting on a pornographic video in a training session is sexual harassment, instead they characterize it as "a joke."

"They don't understand that they can't do that anymore. Maybe at one point you could, but you can't anymore," Smith said.

"How do you combat that? When your own town council doesn't even see it, when your own mayor doesn't understand it. They're spending taxpayers money here in Spaniard's Bay to meet with lawyers and build a defence against her."

Rougly 200 supporters of the Spaniard's Bay volunteer firefighters who resigned turned out for a rally Thursday night to show their support. (Terry Roberts)

Smith said it was awful to see the rally for the resigned firefighters on Thursday night, where roughly 200 people in the community greeted the men as heroes.

"I understand what [the firefighters] do and I understand that they're respected. I'm an ex-combat veteran myself," he said.

"But to be here with signs held up, 'Support our men' in 2016 seems ludicrous to me. Why not support the fire department? Why not support equal rights? Why not have an investigation into this?"

Mayor Tony Menchions said he wouldn't comment on Smith's allegations.

However, he said that he wants all the firefighters to return and that he realizes that not all councillors will agree with that sentiment.