OPINION |Reason for Departure of Fire Chief Privileged Information

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Since I got the details officially through a Freedom of Information request regarding the termination of a probationary public educator at the Sault Ste. Marie Fire Service and how much that cost the city, I thought it only natural that the same information would be available in regard to the departure of Mike Figliola from his job as fire chief.
It isn’t to be.
The FOI request in regard to the probationary public educator (whose name I didn’t use then and won’t use now) revealed she received $12,321.88 in regular pay for the six weeks she worked, $3,974.80 in severance and $5,962.19 in vacation payout for a total of $22,258.87.
In regard to Figliola, we will have to live with the rumour that says he got $100,000 because the city, in its reply to my request, says to release any information “would constitute an unjustified invasion of personal privacy if disclosed.”
What is the difference between the two in regard to personal privacy, you are probably asking, as I did.
Jeffrey King, solicitor/prosecutor in the city’s legal department, told me the fire chief’s case is not as straight forward as that of the public educator, where it had been decided the job was not required at this time and she was let go.
He said there was information in the material regarding the departure of the fire chief, where there was some conjecture over whether he was fired or, as the city preferred to say, the two simply had ended their employment relationship, that could affect Figliola’s personal life and future employment prospects.
This would seem to be borne out in the body of King’s reply to my FOI request in which I asked:
“I am requesting a copy of any letter of agreement between the City of Sault Ste. Marie and former fire chief Mike Figliola in regard to the two agreeing to part company. I am seeking information regarding the payout Figliola received from the city for leaving his position as fire chief. I would like to know whether it was a lump sum payment and how much or whether it was broken down in wages, vacation pay and cash in lieu of notice.”
King said the documents were not being provided under the following statutory authorities:
“Sections 14(1) and 14(3) of the (FOI) Act, as it concerns personal information about someone other than the requester that would constitute an unjustified invasion of personal privacy if disclosed specifically, 14(3)(d) and (f) relating to employment history and personal finances.
“Futher, we opine that the Act is not applicable to the documents received pursuant to Section 52(3) of the Act, since the documents are a product of negotiations or consultations about employment-related matters.”
I take from that there was some negotiating in regard to what Figliola was going to get in the way of a payout for his departure.
I can understand both the fire chief and the city wanting to part company, the chief because everything he had instituted had been put on hold, a pause in the words of Chief Administrative Officer Al Horsman, and the city because the chief had become the central figure in the controversy surrounding the fire service, a lot of it resulting from his hiring of several people for jobs paying $103,000 to start.
Two had actually been hired for the public educator’s job but then one, who was the latest to be hired, was let go.
As you will recall, that termination created some problems on its own.
Richard Bishop, president of the firefighters union, said two public educators were hired and one was let go, but Horsman claimed the woman involved had never been hired, that the second position was not filled because it was decided to await the review recently conducted by the fire marshal’s office.
The truth in that impasse only came out after I obtained a copy of the letter of termination, prior to what I received through the FOI request, that the woman received from Human Resources and published it on Northern Hoot.
As there was some notion in the community that Figliola had been on contract, although I knew the answer, the CAO being the only city employee on contract (four years), I also requested official word on that.
“Lastly, please be advised that Michael Figliola was an employee of the City of Sault Ste. Marie in his capacity as the fire chief and was not hired on a contract basis,” King said in his reply.
In any event, stay tuned.
As with any soap opera, this story is to be continued – with a little luck, that will be next week.
This was only a by-election but I don’t think I have seen a harder-fought election of any kind in this city.
It may not seem like it to some since only 25,785 (44 percent) of 62,944 eligible voters made their way to the polls, but I tend to look at what the candidates and their teams did.
Representatives of Ross Romano of the Progressive Conservatives, Joe Krmpotich of the NDP and Debbie Amaroso of the Liberals were at our door and on the phone to us constantly.
Romano’s people even phoned us twice on election day, wanting to know if we needed a ride.
And as for election signs, they were everywhere in quantities never seen before.
Romano came out on top, collecting 10,391 votes, 40.3 percent of the total cast, a fit reward for the work he and his people put in.
Joe Krmpotich of the NDP received 8,535 votes and Debbie Amaroso of the Liberals received 5,919.
These candidates should be congratulated for the campaigns they ran and if Romano puts this kind of effort into his new job at Queen’s Park, the Sault riding should be in good hands.
Doug Millroy can be reached at dmillroy@gmail.com.

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