Fire chief’s job description changes after going to OPP with concerns about councillor

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Petrolia Mayor Brad Loosley says the fire chief’s job description is changing after he went to OPP saying Councillor Marty Souch may be watching employees of the town. 

Monday, council passed a bylaw, without any comment, which changed the job description of Chief Jay Arns from Chief of the Petrolia and North Enniskillen Fire Department and Director of Protective Services to the Director of Public Services. 

The bylaw didn’t layout what the chief’s new position entails but Loosley tells The Independent the change comes in the wake of the investigation by John Fleming into the incident which saw police tail Souch after a staff member went to police concerned a councillor was watching staff at work. 

The investigator found no evidence of the claim and said the staff had gone above the chief administrative officer’s head when it went to the OPP. 

Loosley says the bylaw clarifies Arns position. “There’s a difference on his responsibilities now basically to be related to fire and crossing guards and parking tickets, that type of thing. And that’s where he will stop. So, it won’t be all the other things that …what he was involved with – you know, that part of the idea of somebody following somebody and him getting involved with that,” he says. 

Under the Protective Services in the 2021 budget, Arns was also responsible for budgeting for policing, all bylaw enforcement and the health and safety committee. 

The Independent asked the mayor if the fire chief “felt empowered” to take action in the incident because his directorship included protective services. “That’s my understanding, yes,” says Loosley. 

“It was as recommended by Fleming to do that. So he was just empowered under certain areas and not everything,” says Loosley of the change. 

After Fleming’s investigation, CAO Rick Charlebois, in a news release, said the actions recommended by Fleming after the two-week investigation into the staff/ councillor relations problem would move forward. But the exact actions were not released, nor were the names of the staff members involved in the conflict with Souch. 

Souch also hasn’t been officially named in the report, however The Independent spoke with the councillor about the OPP investigation a month before he approached the mayor about his concerns with staff going to the police.