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Fired administrator files grievance with town

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, July 2, 2012

The former senior administrative officer (SAO) with the Town of Fort Smith has filed a grievance with the municipality over her dismissal on June 6.

Brenda Black filed the grievance on June 20 based on the town bylaw which outlines the terms of employment for the SAO.

"I wasn't trying to be difficult or anything," she said. "I'm just following the guidelines in that bylaw that are supposed to outline what I'm supposed to do and what they're supposed to do. So that's what I'm doing."

Black said the bylaw was not adhered to by the town.

She pointed to a number of clauses in the bylaw, including that a mayor is supposed to notify an SAO in writing of the reason for dismissal and an SAO is supposed to receive the opportunity to defend himself or herself against the reason for dismissal.

Black said she still doesn't don't know why she was dismissed.

"That is my issue," she added. "When you do a performance appraisal, the cardinal rule in HR (human resources) is that it should never be a surprise, and I never got the appraisal."

In her grievance, she also referenced to several clauses in the bylaw on the rules for termination pay.

In addition, Black said the decision on her termination was not made at a council meeting, but at a meeting of the Corporate Services and Human Resources Standing Committee.

The Town of Fort Smith has 20 days to respond to the grievance.

"At least I hope we're going to have an opportunity to talk, because this is crazy that we didn't," Black said. "I didn't have any indication that I'd done anything that was not appropriate or not in accordance with what council wanted or anything like that. So that's what I'm finding difficult."

The former SAO is also not ruling out the possibility of taking civil court action over her dismissal.

"I'm waiting on legal advice on the whole circumstance," she said. "At this particular point in time, I want to do whatever is right and, according to the bylaw, the rules were broken. So that's all I've done is filed a grievance that says this is what the bylaw says and this is not what happened."

Mayor Janie Hobart said the grievance from Black has been passed along to the town's lawyers for review.

"It's in their hands right now," the mayor said.

Hobart declined any further comment on the matter.

Black had been SAO with the town since February of last year.

In a June 6 news release announcing her termination, the town stated Black's management style did not match council's visions, values and goals.

The Town of Fort Smith recently named an interim SAO while the search is on for a person to permanently fill the position.

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