City says Fire Chief will not be performing some duties

When the hiring of Ethan Johnson, son of Fire Chief Peter Johnson, happened, it put the city, the chief and the union in what appears to be an impossible situation.

The City of Sault Ste. Marie has an anti-nepotism policy that was put in place to prevent such things from happening.

Sault Ste. Marie Anti-nepotism policy.

This policy which the City calls “the hiring of family members” states: “The policy is designed to avoid direct reporting relationships whereby a family member has direct authority to administer monetary gain, to make performance reviews, recommending hiring or promotion, or administering discipline to another parent.

A parent according to the policy is a spouse, child, sibling or in-laws, the instructions are clear.

“The Corporation of the City of Sault Ste. Marie is not to hire, transfer, promote or assign a person to any department / division, which will result in the person being supervised by a senior staff member related to her. Senior managers appoint a head of department, head of division and deputy.

In a document provided to SaultOnline outlining the responsibilities of chiefs, section 9.2 reads: “Members and administration of the fire department while on duty shall be under the direct supervision of the fire chief or of the next rank officer at any location. “

This is an excerpt from the City’s Code of Conduct

In addition, under section 8.2.e. of the “municipal responsibilities of the fire chief”, it is stated: “For the conduct and discipline of members and administrative support staff of the fire services. “

When we asked the Sault Fire Department and the City a few questions about the hiring and its impact on the Chief in the future given the policy violation, Director of Communications Tessa Vecchio, we provided the following responses:

Q. If the chief, who is responsible for all discipline according to City’s own policy, in the fire department is not going to discipline his son, will he recuse himself from the discipline of all the other firefighters as well?

A. Disciplinary action, for all areas of the Company, is a shared responsibility with the contribution and oversight of Human Resources. The Chief will keep his usual role, with Human Resources and the Deputy Chief concerned, for the other firefighters.

The Sault Fire Services command flowchart reads as follows:

  • The firefighter (union member) reports to a captain (union member). The captain reports to a platoon leader (who is also a member of the union). None of these individuals exempt from discipline.
  • The platoon leader responds to Deputy Law Enforcement Leader Cole, who is not a union member. Cole responds to Chief Johnson.
  • Cole, who is said to be the only other person capable of disciplining the chief’s son, was selected as Deputy Fire Chief by Johnson in September 2017, just three months after Johnson was appointed Chief.

In most union environments, what happens to one member is what should happen to other members. In this case, if the chief cannot discipline his son, a union could argue that he cannot discipline any of the firefighters. Leaving Cole as responsible for discipline and not as leader in accordance with his duties set out in his job description.

The protection of taxpayers’ money was also brought to the attention of the City in our follow-ups.

Q. How will the fire chief keep taxpayer dollars in mind as he now negotiates firefighters’ salaries?

A. Mandates and approvals for collective bargaining are decided by the Council. The City’s collective bargaining team is led by Human Resources, assisted by the senior management of the sector concerned. The fire chief will withdraw from the monetary side of the negotiations which, in any case, are led by human resources.

The latest negotiating team for the City included Director of Human Resources Peter Niro, Fire Chief Johnson, Deputy Fire Chiefs Stuart Cole and Peter Milosevich, and City Labor Relations Representative Ida Bruno.

Q. How can the City assure taxpayers that all negotiations will now be conducted in a transparent manner? [and that] neither Ethan nor Peter share information about the ongoing negotiations.

A. The City and the SSMPFFA are obliged to negotiate in good faith when they are engaged in collective bargaining.

While conducting routine research on this, we learned that Ethan had already started with Sault Fire Services. Most of the time, as we previously reported, the Sault Fire Department held a helmet handover ceremony for new firefighters on day one and posted it on social media.

Vecchio was able to tell us that the ceremony has not yet taken place in this case.

SaultOnline has also learned that the Ontario Ombudsman has been contacted about this and is currently interviewing the complainants. It is not known if that means they have opened an investigation at this time.

The City pays its fire chief $ 178,009 per year to perform all the tasks required of his position. It appears from the above responses to our questions that Chief Johnson found himself in the position of not being able to handle some of these functions.

Stay with SaultOnline / ONNtv as we continue to collect facts and information regarding potential violations regarding hiring and other City policies.


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