Former fire Chief Dale Heriot’s wrongful dismissal suit against the city has been settled out of court, averting the civil trial scheduled to be heard next month in Vancouver.
A BC Supreme Court filing shows the lawsuit was dismissed with both parties’ consent on Wednesday, Sept. 8. No damages were awarded to either side.
Speaking to The Gazette on Tuesday, Sept. 14, Chief Administrative Officer Duncan Redfearn said the suit had been “resolved” some time before the court filing. Redfearn wouldn’t say if that resolution came at the expense of a financial settlement with Heriot, explaining that he was bound to strict confidentiality in all personnel matters.
Heriot on Wednesday said he accepted a financial settlement from the city in May. Declining to specify an amount, he instead said he was satisfied with the resolution.
“I would’ve much rather served out my time with the city,” he told The Gazette, qualifying that he’d accepted the city’s offer on the advice of his lawyer.
Heriot filed suit against the city in January 2020, roughly six months after the city fired him without cause, according to both sides’ legal filings with the Supreme Court of BC. The specifics of Heriot’s firing haven’t been made public, but the same filings show a volunteer firefighter’s complaint in March 2019 triggered an independent investigation into Heriot’s leadership of Grand Forks Fire/Rescue.
While the investigation’s findings haven’t been made public either, the city alleged in its response to Heriot’s civil claim that the investigation highlighted “serious flaws with the Plaintiff’s leadership of the Fire Department.”
Heriot, who was awarded the Fire Chiefs’ Association of BC’s top achievement award last fall, alleged that the city never told him his leadership had been under investigation and that he wasn’t given fair notice before he was terminated.
The city denied Heriot’s claims, responding that he’d been fired after refusing to consider proposed changes to his role as fire chief, changes the city said would have seen him focus more on administrative duties, with no change to his job title.
Now retired from active fire service, Heriot, 60, said his experience was traumatic, especially as his termination was reported closely in the media.
“I wish, truly, that I could say my whole story,” he said. “And I never got a chance to thank the community.”
Heriot moved away from Grand Forks to be closer to his children and grandchildren. He meanwhile faces a lawsuit brought by former department volunteer Lesley Cleverly who, among other allegations, claims Heriot and other department members sought to “destroy” his reputation and cause his local business to suffer.
There have been no developments in that lawsuit since March, according to online court filings.