Court OKs Heighton decision: Justice agrees with police board ruling on reinstatement

Adam MacInnis
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STELLARTON – A legal battle involving the Town of Stellarton, former police chief Ambrose Heighton and the Police Review Board that has gone on for over four years may have finally reached an end.

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Nick Scaravelli issued a decision Thursday that the Police Review Board was within its rights when it said that Stellarton’s fired police chief Ambrose Heighton should be reinstated at one rank lower than that of chief.


The Town of Stellarton had requested the Supreme Court give judicial review of the decision because council there did not feel the review board had the right to say that Heighton should be demoted instead of fired. The justice disagreed.

“The Review Board’s conclusion that it had the discretionary authority to vary the penalty of dismissal of the Chief Officer to a penalty of reduction in rank was a reasonable conclusion,” Scaravelli stated in his written decision.

Heighton was fired in 2008 after he was accused of writing and distributing an anonymous letter implicating several RCMP officers in sex parties, drug use and other embarrassing or unprofessional conduct. Heighton appealed the town’s decision to fire him and the matter went before the Police Review Board. They determined that Heighton had penned the letter and by doing so had engaged in discreditable conduct. On April 13, 2012, they ruled however that Heighton shouldn’t have been fired and said instead he should be reinstated at one rank lower than chief.

The town argued that decision by saying that the Police Act does not expressly give the board the authorization to demote the chief officer. Scaravelli explained why he did not believe that was the case.

“By virtue of Sections 78 and 79 of the (Police) Act the Review Board has an unfettered discretion to impose any penalty it deems fit including variation of the dismissal of a member of the police force,” Scaravelli wrote.

In dismissing the application, Scaravelli issued a cost to each of the respondents of $1,500 each.

Heighton returned to work at the Stellarton Police Department in December.

Stellarton Coun. George Megeney who chairs the town’s police commission said things have been going well since Heighton returned to work as an inspector. Megeney heard through the media about the Supreme Court’s decision, but hadn’t seen the decision himself.

“We weren’t aware that the decision was coming down today (Thursday),” he said. “We haven’t heard from our solicitor.”

He said he would not be able to comment on the decision until he heard from the solicitor.

Mayor Joe Gennoe said that comments should be addressed to Megeney. He said a meeting will likely be called to discuss the new information.

Attempts to reach Heighton were unsuccessful.

Organizations: Police Review Board, Supreme Court, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Nick Scaravelli RCMP Stellarton Police Department

Geographic location: STELLARTON, December.Stellarton Coun

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Recent comments

  • Time to move on
    January 20, 2013 - 05:09

    As a town resident I am glad this is over was embarassing.....small town police politics..mickey mouse behind the scenes gossip..all because someone was afraid the RCMP were going to be taking over let's discredit them.....I hope everyone has learned from this.

  • LongMemory
    January 18, 2013 - 10:47

    At a time like this, all I can think of is "Whats good for the Goose is good for the gander", except that the Goose got a promotion and the gander got a demotion.

  • judy fanning
    January 18, 2013 - 10:42

    My congrats' to ambrose and his family, I am very proud to consider myself a friend. As stated in the previous comment the damage done to this family and our town is terrible and hopefully lessons learned. For those responsible behind the scenes a public appology should be given NOT only to ambrose and his family But to the citizens of Stellarton, for how much this circus will and is costing taxpayers, maybe not this year but futher down the road, we will be hearing we can't afford our road to be paved or new water pipes installed. Shame on the council at the time for this mess!!!!!

  • Sammy
    January 18, 2013 - 09:16

    Didn't the town fire Heighton out of fear of being sued? And to think they were trying to save money by avoiding a lawsuit. They certainly underestimated Heighton and I'm so glad he never backed down and fought until the bitter end. How unforunate though that he has to go back to work with the backstabbing cowards that should have stood up for him in the first place. Gennoe is already redirecting comments to Megeney. A little tongue tied perhaps Gennoe?

  • watchdog
    January 18, 2013 - 04:09

    They say the one thing man learns from history is that man does not learn from history. With what happened in the past one would think The town of Stellarton would not have acted in the same manner twice. It is sad the damage that has been done and for what. Hundreds of thousands of dollarss spent to what end. All the harm done to the reputation of mr. heighton not to mention the mental and physical toll it has taken upon him and his family. I am not to judge the innocence or guilt of Mr Heighton but would like to strongly condem the actions taken against him. Which of the actions has the greatest negative effect on the residents of Stellarton? At a time when money is so scarce poor judgement to my way of thinking has been exhibited by the officials responsible in making a hasty misinformed decision to fire Mr. Heighton. Time for healing and accountability.