A former Grand Forks firefighter is seeking damages from the city, four previous colleagues at Grand Forks Fire/Rescue and a woman with ties to city first-responders, according to a notice of civil claim filed in Kelowna’s Supreme Court of British Columbia Friday, Jan. 8.
The plaintiff, Leslie William Cleverly, alleges that the city tolerated a “toxic” culture of bullying and harassment within the fire department, which the claim says led to his “constructive dismissal” after he initiated a WorkSafeBC claim against former fire chief Dale Heriot, who is himself suing the city for wrongful dismissal.
Cleverly further claims that Heriot, Deputy Chief Rich Piché and firefighter Manfred Bialon spread “false and malicious rumours” in the spring of 2019, including that Cleverly was “a drug dealer” and that he was having “an extramarital affair.”
The lawsuit describes the defendants’ actions as a part of a conspiracy to destroy Cleverly’s career in the city’s community of first-responders (Cleverly is currently employed with the BC Emergency Health Services, BCEHS), his reputation in Grand Forks, and his livelihood through his city business, Ultimate Hockey and Skate, Ltd.
The suit also alleges that Letha Leber, a volunteer firefighter at Grand Forks Fire/Rescue, emailed BCEHS with details of an alleged workplace incident at Grand Forks Fire/Rescue, allegedly to have Cleverly fired as BCEHS’ manager of patient care.
The lawsuit is seeking damages from the city and each of the defendants, as well as injunctions against Heriot, Piché, Bialon and Leber against allegedly repeating hurtful rumours about the plaintiff.
Grand Forks’ chief administrative officer Duncan Redfearn and former chief Heriot said their lawyers were served with Cleverly’s statement of claim on Jan. 12. Piché, Bialon and Leber said they had not been served as of Friday, Jan. 15.
Heriot filed a Supreme Court lawsuit in Vancouver against the City of Grand Forks, alleging his wrongful dismissal in July 2019 after an independent investigation into workplace conditions at Grand Forks Fire/Rescue.
A trial date for former chief Heriot’s wrongful dismissal suit against the City of Grand Forks has been set by the B.C. Supreme Court for Oct. 21 in Vancouver.
None of the defendants have filed a response to Cleverly’s notice of civil claims as of Jan. 15.
Heriot’s civil claim, filed last January, alleges that the city mishandled and misrepresented a human resources investigation into the Grand Forks fire department that resulted in him losing his job. The city in its February 2020 response to Heriot’s claim, disputes the former chief’s allegations.
None of Heriot’s, nor Cleverly’s claims have been tested in a court of law.