CBC NEWS –The Maritime College of Forest Technology has reaffirmed that the dismissal of a well-known instructor was for misconduct and not his views on the controversial herbicide glyphosate.

Tim Marshall, the college’s executive director, said Monday in a three-page statement to CBC News the firing of Rod Cumberland in June came as the result of the wildlife biologist’s “abuse of authority” and “disparaging remarks” about the Fredericton-based school and its administration.

The statement from Marshall, who declined to be interviewed, was issued amid calls from provincial politicians for an independent inquiry into the dismissal of two of the publicly funded college’s longest-serving instructors.

Cumberland was fired from his teaching role — a move that he said surprised and confused him — on June 20.

On July 3, Gerald Redmond, the former executive director of the college who retired in 2017, told CBC News he believed his former colleague’s opposition to glyphosate is likely the “real reason.”

Gerald Redmond, the former executive director of the Maritime College of Forest Technology, was told by the school his services were no longer needed the day after he criticized the firing of a well-known instructor.(CBC)

He said he felt pressure from the board of governors during his tenure as executive director to sanction Cumberland on several occasions for his outspokenness on the controversial herbicide used by the New Brunswick forest industry.

On July 4, Redmond, who had been teaching a few courses through the continuing education program as an independent contractor, was told his “services were no longer needed.”

Last week, Green Party Leader David Coon and People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin both called for an inquiry into the matter as well as a broader look at the college’s governance.

Austin also alleged a board member who voted to fire Cumberland later applied for and was interviewed for the position.

People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin has called for an inquiry into the dismissal of the two instructors. (CBC)

On Monday, Marshall said board member Andrew Fedora applied for one of two “recently advertised vacancies,” but he was not interviewed for Cumberland’s open position. He has since withdrawn himself from consideration.

Marshall said the board did not vote on firing Cumberland.

“Those matters are dealt with by the Executive Director,” he said.

Fedora confirmed Marshall’s statement on Monday but would not comment further.

Reasons for dismissal

The statement does not directly address the calls for an inquiry. Instead, it outlined the college’s reasons for cutting ties with the two instructors.

Marshall said the college normally doesn’t comment on personnel issues, but felt compelled.

“Because of the rhetoric that has been circulating in the public realm, which contain inaccurate and untruthful information, we have been left with no choice but to comment … to clarify the facts relating to this matter,” reads the statement.

It listed several reasons for Cumberland’s termination that included:

  • Preventing students from attending class because they were late and even adjusting the clock ahead by a few minutes;
  • confiscating hats and requiring students to apologize to him in front of the class;
  • making “inappropriate and offensive” comments in class;
  • engaging in conduct that “constitutes harassment” which damaged the college’s reputation;
  • undermining the content of a vegetation management seminar approved by the college;
  • making disparaging remarks, at the college and in the community, about the school and its administration;
  • and failing to adhere to instructions given to him by the academic chair.

“The behaviour of Mr. Cumberland was unacceptable,” Marshall said.

The statement went on to accuse Cumberland of abusing his authority — a form of harassment, it said, when the individual harms or interferes with a person’s career or studies in a manner that serves “no legitimate work purpose” and ought to be understood as “inappropriate.”

Cumberland said in early July he was surprised by the decision to fire him and is unclear on the college’s reasons, which were outlined in the dismissal letter.

“It doesn’t make sense when you look at it on the surface,” he said.

Cumberland could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday.

Glyphosate not a factor, college says

The deer biologist and competitive lumberjack has spent 29 years working for the provincial Department of Natural Resources and the Fredericton-based ranger school.

After leaving government, he began publicly discussing the effects of glyphosate on New Brunswick’s forests and, in particular, the deer population.

Cumberland has been outspoken about the potential harms of glyphosate, a controversial herbicide used by the New Brunswick forest industry. (CBC)

The college said the reason for Cumberland’s termination had nothing to do with his views on glyphosate.

It also accused Redmond of recently disclosing confidential information belonging to the college he obtained while executive director.

The college, originally called the Maritime Forest Ranger School, was established as a co-operative venture of the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia governments and forest industries, according to the college’s website.

Its Fredericton campus is on the grounds of the Hugh John Flemming Forestry Centre, also a co-operative venture of government agencies, educational institutions and industry associations.