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VOP reviewing Mack’s comments

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The Village of Pemberton is reviewing public statements by Fire Chief Russell Mack, who spoke out against a village councillor after a dispute was settled which apparently included an agreement that neither party would speak publicly about the issue.

Village administrator Lori Pilon sent an undated press release to Pique Newsmagazine on Nov. 11 stating that the village does “not condone” Mack’s statements, which concerned a series of events that led to Councillor David MacKenzie filing a human rights complaint against both Mack and the Village.

“The Village felt the issue had been dealt with and was behind us and the authorized spokespeople for the Village have lived by the agreement,” Pilon wrote in the press release.

“The Village does not condone the public statements made by Fire Chief Russell Mack who was not authorized to speak publicly on this issue regarding Mr. MacKenzie.”

Mack spoke to Pique in September regarding the complaint and the story was published on Nov. 6.

MacKenzie, who also served as a volunteer firefighter, filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal in January 2007. In it he alleged three things: that he was passed over for a promotion because he was gay; that Mack had repeatedly made homophobic jokes; and that he was denied an opportunity to assist with a rookie training session.

Mack said he spoke to Pique because MacKenzie had previously broken a commitment not to speak about the complaint when both were interested in settling it. MacKenzie did interviews about the complaint with Pique , the Vancouver Sun and Xtra West in April 2007.

Pilon also writes in the press release that the Village of Pemberton has “supported the Human Rights Tribunal process since the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation was brought to the attention of the Village in April of 2007.”

She also wrote that harassment-awareness training was made mandatory for all staff and that an agreement was reached that none of the parties involved would make any further statements regarding the matter.

The complaint was settled before the matter went before the tribunal. A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Pique found that the village spent a total of $17,480.44 on the settlement, money that included legal fees for both the VOP and MacKenzie’s “reasonable expenses.” MacKenzie received $5,000, the maximum amount allowed to him under the settlement agreement.

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