Safety & Training
Brian Jenner issues statement concerning his dismissal from HAC
April 3, 2008 By Brian Jenner
April 3, 2008, Québec City, Qué. - Former president and CEO of the Helicopter Association of Canada today issued a statement addressing the recent decision made by the HAC Board of Directors.
In the fall of 2006 I accepted an invitation to spend a weekend in the bush. Although I was not there to hunt (I didn’t even bring a gun), there were a dozen or so hunters in camp, two of whom were undercover game wardens. Subsequently several people were ticketed for using a helicopter to facilitate hunting.
I do not and have never condoned the use of a helicopter to facilitate hunting. I did not know that the helicopter would be used by hunters. I vigorously and repeatedly advised the people involved to stop using the helicopter to facilitate hunting.
Although for three days I was unable to leave the camp, I thought I had remained sufficiently removed from the illicit activities to avoid being implicated. Unfortunately in the fall of 2007, when the hunters pleaded guilty, their kills became illicit and I discovered that technically I was probably guilty of possession of contraband moose meat.
I might have been able to convince a judge that the charge was trumped up. But I pleaded guilty out of loyalty to a friend and HAC Director who insisted it was a necessary sacrifice for him to obtain the release of his seized helicopter. It ’s not the first time I took great personal risk to stand by helicopter operators. Fifteen years ago I risked a five-year jail term to defend 13 operators accused of price fixing. I succeeded in defending them and now some of them want a pound of flesh for my own indiscretion
As for rumours of greater involvement on my part, I would point out that were I guilty of anything else, I would most certainly have been prosecuted for it and the results reported along with the possession charge for which I allowed a guilty plea to be entered.
In reaction to wide spread claims that I kept the whole thing a secret, there are two things to consider. First, to those who third degreed me about what I told or didn’t tell the Board, I say again, loyalty to directors prohibited me from telling anyone who was told what and when.The principle of solidarity in governance also requires complete discretion on my part and should have garnered similar discretion on the part of sitting directors and former directors.
However, now that my loyalty has been rewarded by dismissal, I no longer feel honour bound to silence. I can now reveal that most directors knew about my proximity to the hunting incident, from the beginning. They took the whole issue very lightly. Most laughed about it. Others made jokes on the subject. They took it so lightly that when the issue was later blown out of all reasonable proportion some directors may very well have forgotten what they knew and when they were informed.
Director’s attitudes were not inconsistent with the industry reaction to the whole affair. In the middle of the “scandal”, that was headline news across the country, André Martel was re-elected to the HAC Board, without the slightest opposition or questioning about his involvement in the hunting incident. When surveyed about their opinions, 100 operators unanimously condemned hunting moose with a helicopter but 95% of them also said they had more important issues to deal with.
On being immediately informed of my guilty plea, HAC Directors were once again amused by my being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Until the last minute, all except one director, who had a long standing opposition to my role as CEO, repeatedly assured me that they were discussing communications strategies, damage control and that dismissal was the last thing on their minds.
Encouraged by the Chairman I personally explained the situation and apologised to a hundred operator members. Although in the process three small operators demanded my resignation, I was gratified to discover that over 90 operators accepted my apology and expressed strong support for my continued Presidency of HAC. Those expressions of support do not diminish in the least my remorse at having been the source of such embarrassment to my family and the Association, but they inspired me to expect that the vast majority of members whom I had been unable to reach, would receive a written explanation and apology with equally balanced judgement, generosity and consideration for the long term best interest of the Association.
By mid-January I was told that the Board, having received over thirty written expressions of support, had passed a confidence motion in my presidency, albeit with the usual opposing vote. I was also informed that the Board was very pleased with the draft written apology that I had submitted at the request of the Chairman.
I was not able to publish that apology because late Friday afternoon, January 31st, out of the blue, I received an e-mail advising me that I was suspended for 45 days. No telephone call in advance, no prior explanation, it was only later that I learned the Board was reacting to new expressions of “concern ”by three of HAC’s biggest operator members and six corporate sponsors. I was not made privy to the details of their concerns but I was assured that the 45-day suspension was strictly meant to give the Board some breathing space to work on their communications strategy.
Up until the very end of the 45-day suspension I was assured that dismissal did not represent 1% of the Board’s discussion. Then I received a letter informing me that a majority of directors had voted my dismissal. The actual possession of contraband meat charge was no longer the problem. Directors who had never thought the issue important enough to put on their Agenda now claimed I had been disloyal because I didn’t somehow force them to take the moose hunting issue seriously from the start. The dismissal was further justified by vague reference to the unspecified previous sins. What sins? I can only guess because the Board did not meet with me to discuss the issue at any time. I do know that I have never received a professional reprimand in my life. I know that Directors were so happy with my services four month previous, that they signed a new employment contract, with a big raise.
On the advice of counsel I have notified the HAC Board that I refuse to accept their decision, since my dismissal is obviously without just and sufficient cause. I have also demanded my immediate re-integration as HAC President and CEO, in full compliance with the terms of my employment contract. And unfortunately I have been obliged to advise the Board that if I am not reinstated I will take legal action against the Association and its directors for breach of contract and defamation. That could end up being a multi-million dollars lawsuit.
Ironically going from a majority of directors in favour of putting this unfortunate incident behind us, to a majority of directors throwing the Association into even greater turmoil is unlikely the satisfy the leaders of this witch hunt; the hunting incident has been completely forgotten by the public; for the perpetrators it’s just another hunting story. The only place this issue will live on is in my life and that of the Association to which I gave 10 years of loyal and dedicated service.
Brian Jenner, BA, MPA
Former President & CEO of the Helicopter Association of Canada