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.