A group of Collingwood (Ontario, Canada, north of Toronto) residents is calling for the termination of the community’s fire chief after he was charged with impaired driving while at the scene of a motor-vehicle collision in the community in early September.
“One big point to make here is that he was driving the county fire truck and was charged with DUI. These are the people who are meant to keep us safe and not put others in harm’s way,” residents said in an unsigned letter to Cumberland County’s fire services Coordinator Mike Carter.
The residents say in their letter the incident is just one in a series involving the chief and they are asking the Municipality of Cumberland to remove him from the position.
They say the deputy chief, who is the chief’s wife, should also be removed for allegedly being intoxicated at the scene.
On the evening in question, Sept. 6, the residents claim one of the firefighters jumped into the fire truck and started it up only to be told the chief would be driving it as he had just arrived at the fire hall. At the scene, the residents allege RCMP officers suspected the chief had been drinking, confirmed this with a roadside unit, placed him in the police vehicle, and took him back to the department for the breathalyzer.
Cpl. Jennifer Clarke, public information officer for the Nova Scotia RCMP, said Monday, Sept. 21 an individual has been charged in connection with the incident.
“I can confirm that 46-year-old Jerrold Cotton was charged with impaired operation of a conveyance and operation of a conveyance with a BAC over 80 ml of alcohol in 100 ml of blood relating to an incident Sept. 6,” Clarke said in an email. “The incident occurred in Collingwood.”
Clarke said she can confirm the incident occurred at the scene of a motor-vehicle collision but cannot confirm his role or volunteer occupation or the vehicle he was driving.
His appearance date in Amherst provincial court is Oct. 26.
Carter told media later Monday he is aware of the situation, but said there isn’t much the county can do, calling it an internal matter within the department. He said he received an email from the RCMP with some of the details and has been in touch with a Collingwood resident but doesn’t want to comment on that conversation.
He said the municipality provides equipment and training, but the rural departments are governed through the Societies Act. He said the municipality does not have the authority to remove a chief. “ (Our area) Fire departments are all registered societies and they have their own bylaws. It’s all internal,” he said. “What we do is provide equipment, pay bills and provide training, but as far as anything like personnel issues and discipline we have nothing to do with that.”