It would be hard to argue that knowing the name of every person slapped with an administrative penalty for drinking and driving was in the public interest. But what if that person is a senior official responsible for public safety?
Three months ago, an Esquimalt assistant fire chief was pulled over and given a 90-day driving ban for drinking before he drove, off-duty. Neither the fire department, nor the Township of Esquimalt, released the information to the public.
Even some Esquimalt councillors, who have the ultimate say in the department’s management, weren’t informed. In fact, the incident only came to light after an anonymous source tipped off a local media outlet.
Had George McGregor been criminally charged with impaired driving, the information would have been made public through court records. For someone in his position, that information should have been provided to the public regardless of a criminal charge, off-duty or on.
The same rules apply in any B.C. municipality — the names of public safety officials who receive administrative driving penalties are not released. Only a criminal charge would bring such transgressions to light.
McGregor’s actions represent a potentially dangerous indiscretion unbecoming of a public safety official. While public safety officials are human just like the rest of us, they have a responsibility to display a high standard of discipline as role models.
Public bodies must remain accountable, especially where safety is concerned. While the rules might not dictate so, these agencies should step up and disclose the transgressions of their members — criminal or otherwise.
For one thing, it would encourage these individuals to be more mindful of the important role they play in the eyes of the public. More importantly, in circumstances like McGregor’s, it could have opened a public dialogue into the usefulness and validity of the police-juried roadside prohibitions for drinking and driving.