Former fire chief, sentenced to five years for sexual abuse, granted full parole

KINGSVILLE — Former fire chief Bob Kissner, sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty in 2019 of multiple counts of sexual abuse, has been granted full parole by the Parole Board of Canada.

Kissner, released earlier this month, is expected to return to the Kingsville area, according to a parole board decision released this week.

Under the terms of release, the former chief must have no contact with his victims or their families. He also must not place himself in a position of influence — through employment, volunteerism or leisure activities — over potential victims.

The decision said Kissner acknowledged his guilt and had been a model prisoner who was not likely to reoffend.

Kissner, who had been on day parole, was eligible for full parole in April 2021, but was denied last year “after considering the number of victims, their ages, and duration of offending,” the parole board decision said.

Kissner’s day parole was extended for another six months in January 2022. His release on full parole is timed with the end of that extension.

“You have now been in the community for just under 12 months and there have been no concerns, the parole board noted. “You have remained compliant with all imposed special conditions, worked well with your case management team…. You are prompt and attentive at supervision meetings, journal your daily activities and are transparent in sharing information. You have complied with police reporting requirements.”

Under the requirements of day parole, Kissner needed permission from his parole officer to visit Kingsville and Essex County. No such requirement is needed now that Kissner has received full parole.

“You have applied for full parole with a plan to return to your home community to reside in thehome and property you own,” the decision said. “You have positive family support in that community and while you understand the potential for media attention, you have a strong circle of friends and supports to assist you to deal with such stress.”

Prior to his release, Kissner was staying at a halfway house near where he was incarcerated. The names of the penitentiary and community have not been disclosed by Corrections Canada or the Parole Board. While on day parole Kissner was active with a local church and used his firefighting background to work with halfway house management to improve their fire safety plan.

The board noted that Kissner — an accomplished organist — has “reached out” to local churches in Kingsville and hopes to provide volunteer music programs.

The board did not minimize the behaviour that led to Kissner’s conviction.

“Over a number of years, you sexually abused vulnerable adult and underage males,” the board said. “You used grooming, coercion and your position of authority over the victims, resulting in serious harm.”

Between 2003 and 2016, Kissner sexually assaulted three underage male victims and one adult male victim. The abuse, the parole board said, was ongoing.

One of the victims, who no longer lives in the area, sued Kissner and the Town of Kingsville for $3.85 million. In the statement of claim, the plaintiff — who worked for the fire department as a co-op student to fulfill his high school community service hours — alleged Kissner used his position of authority as fire chief to cultivate a close personal relationship and trust with the student that led to sexual abuse.

The victim also alleged the town either denied the existence of Kissner’s conduct or was “wilfully blind” to it, failing to sufficiently investigate allegations against the chief and failing to notify the police.

The lawsuit was dismissed by consent earlier this year with the town and the plaintiff’s lawyer refusing to say if a financial settlement was reached.

The town has denied a freedom of information request filed by the Kingsville Observer seeking records dealing with the terms of settlement, if any.

Citing the Municipal Freedom of Information Act, the town said those records are subject to solicitor-client privilege and are exempt from disclosure.

The Observer maintains it is in the public interest to know whether a settlement was reached and, if so, how much the town or its insurance company paid. The Observer has appealed the town’s decision to the province’s information and privacy commissioner.

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