It has been a frustrating couple of weeks chasing two stories I know exist but haven’t been able to nail down.
One involves a complaint about former fire chief Mike Figliola that I am told first went to the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service and then was passed on to the Ontario Provincial Police for investigation.
The second concerns the departure of Civilian Crime Analyst Stella Melanson, wife of Police Chief Robert Keetch, from the Sault Police Service.
In an effort to track these stories down I approached the police chief, his deputy, Sean Sparling, Mayor Christian Provenzano and City Solicitor Nuala Kenny.
Keetch replied, “I am not in a position to reply in either respect.”
Sparling replied, “Thank you for your inquiry in regards to these two matters. I certainly appreciate the important role that you and the media play in our community. Our Service endeavours to assist the media in your function when possible and where appropriate.
“Unfortunately in regard to your questions on these present matters I am not in a position to comment in either respect.”
Kenny replied, “The city has not made any complaint to any agency regarding the former fire chief, Mike Figliola. Also, the city is not in receipt of any claim from Ms. Melanson.”
I didn’t get a reply from the mayor.
In a phone conversation Sparling asked me if I had contacted the OPP, pointing out that the one who owns the investigation typically would be the one to comment on it.
I said I thought the police service should at least be able to tell me that it had passed something on.
He said he understood but unfortunately he couldn’t comment.
I told him that I would have to take the fact that neither he nor the chief were denying the matters as evidence that they did exist.
He said he understood that as well.
So my next stop was the Sault detachment of the OPP.
Staff Sgt. Michael Maville, detachment commander, said he knew nothing about it and indicated something like this would normally come through him.
He gave me the number of the OPP operations centre in Orillia and there I was told by Special Constable Karla Rolston that they had no knowledge of it.
So I am nowhere in regard to any complaint involving Figliola.
Except that I know the “matters” exist, mainly because of what amounts to non-denials by the police chief and his deputy. They did not deny that the “matters” existed. They simply said they couldn’t comment.
Jeez, how hard would it be to say that there was nothing to the story if that was indeed the case?
As it stands I am left tilting at windmills.
Now to Melanson.
In my original email to the chief I said, “I am emailing Deputy Chief Sean Sparling with the following question as I know you will want to step aside, as you did when I originally brought up the rumour that was circulating in regard to the hiring of your wife, Stella Melanson, as a civilian crime analyst.
“I also am checking out another rumour making the rounds, this one that Stella Melanson has resigned her position and is suing the police service or some people in it for harassment?
“As I didn’t get any reply from you in regard to my email questioning whether you passed a complaint about former fire chief Mike Figliola along to the OPP, I will also be asking the deputy chief about that.”
In my email to the mayor and city solicitor I said I was looking for answers to what the complaint is about that was originally placed in the hands of city police in regard to former fire chief Mike Figliola and was ultimately passed on to the OPP. I also said I was looking for information as to the status of Melanson in regard to her leaving her position as civilian crime analyst with the police service and suing (I am not sure who, the city or the police service) for harassment.
I later heard that her leaving may not have been her idea.
I had put the questions to the mayor and city solicitor because I thought the mayor would have to know something about the matters since he is a member of the Police Services Board. I thought it would be only natural that he would pass on any information he might have to his legal counsel.
Although the city did come out with a release about Figliola’s departure from the fire service, no one in a position of authority would even go so far as to tell me whether Melanson had left the police service.
So I phoned the switchboard and asked for her.
“She doesn’t work here any more,” was the immediate reply.
Keetch was hired as police chief in 2014 and a rumour was making the rounds a year later that he had hired his wife for a position within the police service without an open competition.
In addressing that rumour, Sparling told me, “In an effort to build a process that would get us the best candidate and be both transparent and defendable, the OPP were engaged to assist in developing the process.”
He said the OPP assigned a sergeant from the analysis and information section and the sergeant, joined city police Inspectors David O’Dell and Steve Davey in a process overseen by Bob Kates, then deputy police chief. He said to avoid any criticism or appearance of bias in the process, the OPP officer was purposely not informed of the relationship between the one candidate and the chief.
Kenny said the city had not received a statement of claim in regard to Melanson and a check I made with the court system didn’t reveal one either.
So I have come up with a zero on this story too.
I have filed a Freedom of Information request in an attempt to find the truth behind the departure of Figliola from city employment.
But at the moment I am just left to wonder if both Figliola and Melanson left on their own accord from their respective services or were pushed.
Doug Millroy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.