Doug Millroy: “She doesn’t work here any more”

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In May of last year I wrote about the frustration I was feeling at being unable to get official confirmation from Sault Ste. Marie Police Services about even the existence of two stories I was chasing.

One involved a complaint about then Sault fire chief Mike Figliola, the other the departure of civilian crime analyst Stella Melanson, wife of Police Chief Robert Keetch, from the Sault Police Service after fewer than two years of employment.

My information was that both issues had been passed on to the OPP for investigation.

The chief replied to my question: “I am not in a position to reply in either respect.”

Deputy Chief Sean 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.”

Within two weeks the existence of the matter involving Figliola, that he had billed the city for expenses for attendance at a convention of the Ontario Asssociation of Fire Chiefs that he allegedly didn’t actually attend, was confirmed through a Freedom of Information request placed with city police by an interested party who passed on the results to me.

In his reply Keetch said, “This request has been transferred pursuant to Section 18 (involvement of other institutions) of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of  Privacy Act to the Ontario Provincial Police as the institution has a greater interest in the records due to the investigation being a joint forces project and all records are held by that police service.”

Since then, we watched as Figliola lost his job with the fire service and then was charged with  fraud, uttering a forged document and breach of trust, a case that is still before the courts.

But in regard to Melanson, we are still in the dark as to the circumstances of how she left the Sault Police Service.

As a result I filed an FOI request with city police in December and recently received a reply from Adrienne Harris, A/Supervisor, Information Services, Freedom of Information Co-ordinator, declining my request.

However, from Harris’s reply I get the idea the Melanson issue has not been settled.

You can judge for yourself from her reply, which read:

“After careful consideration, access is denied to all employment records pursuant to Sections 52(3), 14(3)(d) and 8(3) of the MFIPPA (Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) as follows:
“52(3). Proceedings or anticipated proceedings before a court, tribunal or other entity relating to labour relations or to the employment of a person by the institution.
:14(3)(d) Disclosure of personal information is presumed to constitute and unjustified invasion of personal privacy if the personal information related to employment or education history.
“8(3) A head may refuse to confirm or deny existence of a record.”

If the Melanson issue was not still alive, there would be no reason to include Subsection 52(3), which says there could be “proceedings or anticipated proceedings before a court, tribunal or other entity,” under reasons for declining my request?

And there is another indication, an exception under Subsection 52(4),  which was not provided in Harris’s reply but which says the Act applies to, “An agreement between an institution and one or more employees which ends a proceeding before a court, tribunal or other entity relating to labour relations or to employment-related matters.”

If the Melanson issue indeed was over, this section indicates that I therefore should have been provided with the results.

Some may look at this as a straight employment issue and therefore wonder why I am so interested in it. It is mainly because of the lack of transparency surrounding the issue, which as I looked into it discovered there actually were two versions.

When I first approached the chief and deputy in regard to Melanson’s departure, I said I was checking out a rumour  making the rounds that she had resigned her position and was suing the police service or some people in it for harassment?

I later heard that her leaving may not have been her idea, that the police service had a complaint with her, rather than the other way around.

Although the city came 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.

I confirmed that by phoning the switchboard and asking 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.

I said at the time that it should be noted that Sparling met with and briefed Pat Mick, then chair of the Police Services Board, and Mayor Christian Provenzano, also a member. Both told me they accepted the explanation, although Mick admitted the “optics weren’t good.”

When Melanson was hired there was some complaint about her salary, one missive I received saying the chief was attempting to have her salary boosted up to that of an inspector, well over $100,000.

Melanson did get a boost of $7.500, bringing her salary up to $74,000, far off that of an inspector, but she got the boost on her own through the filing of a pay-equity complaint that was arbitrated by a third party.

Considering the lack of transparency surrounding the Melanson issue to this point, I have little hope that we will be informed when it does come to fruition.

However, maybe there will be a leak.

That is known to have happened. In fact, without them, I would have missed a lot of good information that I was able to pass on to you through the years.

Keetch, Melanson’s husband, is also leaving the Sault Police Service, an announcement issued by the City of Sault Ste. Marie saying Keetch and Sault Ste. Marie Police Services Board “have agreed to end their employment relationship,” the same wording that was used in the departure of Figlola.

I suggested to the chief that the connotation wasn’t good, that it left some wondering what was behind his departure and even emailed a couple of the comments to him, but received no reply.

So I guess if he doesn’t care, I don’t see any reason why I should.

Doug can be reached at: dmillroy@gmail.com

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Doug Millroy
After 61 years in the news business, 41 of them associated with The Sault Star as editor, Doug continues to share his passion for writing as a columnist since retirement.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Fataisan idiot- why don’t you tell us how you really feel? I personally commend Frank to fight for transparency for us.

    Frank Fata – Do you, as a current sitting council member, know why the Chief is leaving? I’m not asking you to tell us the details, I just want to know…do you know?

    • Hi Rhonda. No I do not know any details about why the police chief is leaving at this time. Did I believe that he would be leaving in the foreseeable future ? The answer is yes. But, the people who should have more knowledge are no doubt those that sit on the Police Services Board. I am quite certain that the rest of Council knows about as much on this matter as the general public. Hope everyone has a nice week.

      • Frank. I wonder what made you believe that the Police Chief would be leaving in the foreseeable future? It would seem you know more than you are letting on. Maybe you could elaborate on that for us?
        Do I believe that looking into Nepotism is a good idea? Absolutely. Do I believe that is as bad as Councillor Grandinetti says it is? No sir. I would like to offer some advice though. When councillors bring forward these motions to do this or that, would it not be a good idea to do some extra homework and review whether or not there are already present policies on things such as the employment of relatives? Watching the council meeting on this subject led one to believe that the councillors who supported this did not even look at what the present policy was regarding hiring relatives. Or did I miss something.
        I appreciate the hard work that our councillors do on our behalf, however, sometimes it appears that they bring forward these motions without doing very much of the research or presenting their plan to fix things. Doing this prior to bringing a motion forward would save City Staff a ton of time doing this for them, rather than performing the daily duties that us taxpayers are employing them for. It would certainly be a cost savings which I know this council strives to achieve consistently.
        thanks and Happy New Year

  2. Frank Fata – kinda like the whole city is run (city council especially). I love watching monday nights its like a 3 ring circus – one dingbat ringmaster (more useless than t*ts on a bull) and 12 Fratesi puppets that grew up in the Stone Age who are slowly killing our city.

    Why dont you speak up at council meetings? Have you ever attended the public session of a board meeting and brought your concerns forward?

    I think you should run for mayor of Youranidiot, ontario

    • Thanks for your endorsement. I might consider running in your home town. It would be helpful to have the support of someone who was born and raised there. Maybe you should consider running locally. You sound like the “bright star” this Council is seriously lacking. Good luck.

  3. I’m wondering if people aren’t mistaking the position of “Crime Analyst” with that of a Crime Scene Analyst.”? My understanding is a crime analyst looks at statistical data to identify trends and recommend possible crime reduction strategies.

  4. Very interesting article Doug. I commend you for your journalistic prowess. Especially with what you usually have to work with. Road blocks ??? In political circles, a very popular word, promised but most often, under delivered, catch all, word of the English language is the word……. “transparency”. We certainly hear it enough at the upper levels of government. And, in most cases……., I believe, not delivered !!! It’s understandable that some legal matters have to be dealt with, in a perceived cloud of secrecy. Case in point, these matters with the 2 chiefs, fire and police. At some point, though, the facts should be presented, fully, to you, the taxpayers who pay their salaries. We’ll see what happens there.
    Nepotism, in my opinion, has been and is still alive and well in places like City Hall, Police Services, and the 2 School Boards. These are “public service jobs” and everyone should have a right to attain those positions. But, it’s been quite clear, over the years, that individuals, with inside influences, have had a smoother, easier road to securing a position. Case in point; Police Services states that you need “life experiences” to improve your chances of being hired. Meanwhile, 21 year olds, literally right out of school are being hired. Life experiences ??? Or is it that their relative, usually a parent, works in Police Services. You, the taxpayer, can decide what you want to believe.
    Three councillors had the political will to bring forward a Resolution to show more “transparency” at City Hall and, let’s just say, maybe shine a spotlight on this matter of the hiring policies that are going on. The rest of Council did not think that this has been or continues to be a problem and so, voted it down because, in their minds, it’s not an issue that needs our attention. Sorry, folks, 3 of us did not agree. And, I believe, many taxpayers would not agree either.
    “Transparency”…… a very nice word; easily used in a sentence, easily pronounced. But, very often, NOT DELIVERED.
    These, of course, are just my thoughts on this matter ……………. Again, great job Doug. Keep it up !!!

  5. So to make the hiring process fair and ‘defendable’ they brought in the OPP officer bla bla, but he was not informed that she was the Chief’s wife.

    OH COME ON NOW!

    As if they are going to hire a civilian crime analyst and the candidate in their sights is not background checked to hell and back again. THEY ARE COPS RIGHT?

    And the best part is the OPP officer involved in the hiring that they ‘didn’t tell’….. is a “sergeant from the analysis and information section” !!!

    okey dokey then.

    PS- Can we please have Jane Martynuk back as media relations person asap? The LAST thing Jane would have the time to do is post way too many comments on (the rare) city police news stories that do come out, it is cringe worthy and actually made me change my homepage to this site. It is just embarrassing to the entire police force and city as a whole to see that kind of garbage.

  6. I remember the chief laying out some plans and budgeting when he first became our chief, one being the creation of the crime suppression unit, and another one, I specifically remember- was to eliminate a typically high priced police job and create a ‘civilian crime analyst’ position to save in regards to budget.

    Yes! A CIVILIAN CRIME ANALYST. I only remember this so clearly because I thought how cool it would be to land a job as a civilian crime analyst and take photos of crime scenes for the police. Since it was to save money I also surmised the position wouldn’t pay well. Pffft!

    Now I see why he created that position to ‘save money’. HAH! What a scam, especially if he then lobbied for that job, with one candidate in the running, wifey, to get 100,000k a year which is as much as a police inspector!

    Well played Chief, well played.

    How could only ONE candidate be up for this newly created civilian job? …. and how can the only candidate in the running happen to be his wife?

    I sure hope she left because the police services had a problem with her, and not the other way around. I’m glad I didn’t apply, it would have obviously been a waste of my time and effort.

    Wow, the more I think about this, the more the pieces fall into place,

    I think we’ve all been played by our top cop!
    Ain’t that just swell.

  7. Thank you Mr. Millroy, at least you tried.
    What infuriates me most is that I’m sure everyone sitting on our city council knows what is going on, and council is us! We elected them to represent us, if they know- we should know. I should be able to pick up the phone and call my Councillor and ask why the police chief is leaving, and I should be told why. I’m a grown up, I don’t need to be protected from the truth.
    Thanks for nothing Chief. You and your overpaid/settlement seeking wife can now go back to where you came from- most likely with a settlement that we will all be paying for.
    I’m glad we could all help you and your wife secure an even better retirement fund *sarcasm*.
    I hope this all comes out and it follows both of you, so you can’t pull the same stunt in the next city you find yourselves in.
    Your wife keeping her maiden name is a great con, especially when you get her another job in future and lobby for her pay to be as high as 100 grand, you must of needed the money because your yearly salary of $197,989.91 wouldn’t go far in a place like the Soo. *more sarcasm*

  8. We are so very fortunate to have a guy like Doug who digs up the facts. He is the only local INVESTIGATIVE reporter AND he does not simply rely on press releases and stories that come over the wire services. Keep up the good work Doug……GO GETEM !!!!

  9. Nice article Doug….it appears obvious in my opinion that the Chiefs departure is related to the “possible” ongoing issue with his wife. Keep up the good work

  10. Leak to Doug,
    Leak to Doug,
    Leak to Doug! C’mon you know you are out there, and you know this should not be kept secret, so just do it! Let it leak, and Doug is the man to leak it to!

    #LeakToDoug

  11. The fact that the chief doesn’t care to answer you, makes me care even more now! lol. The optics sure aren’t great. Once again.
    The lack of transparency is alarming. If this was a private company ok, sure, go ahead and clam up, but this is our chief, he works for us, one of the highest paid officials we have who is paid by, ya know….the little guy that pays taxes. Could this be why the ‘nepotism’ thing was tabled at city council, and then quickly shut down? This is an example of nepotism at it’s worst, damn, he hired his own wife at a high salary without a fair hiring process? Now she is maybe looking for some kind of settlement for some kind of issue?

    Maybe she was treated poorly at the station because she wasn’t welcome, because she was hired because she was the chiefs wife!? He comes to our city to take over as chief -and instead takes care of his own. Now he is leaving after a few short years – and we are left without explanation?

    Clearly something is shady, and we have had enough shenanigans with high ranking officials in our city!
    Someone please leak to Doug so we can understand why this city keeps hiring people that let us down, and more importantly so we can avoid it happening again in the future.

  12. Thank you once again Doug for following up on these issues. I find that a lot of times, media doesn’t follow up on reports and leaves the people hanging as to what the result of the report was.
    Cole, Doug will be there at the clothes line to hang it up.

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