Brian McLaughlin (London Free Press)

One of London’s three deputy fire chiefs who had been under the microscope for an alleged workplace harassment charge, has inexplicably left the department for “an extended period of time.”

Sources, who did not want to be identified, have said Brian McLaughlin, the deputy fire chief in charge of fire prevention, was last at work Tuesday, before he was seen leaving the main fire hall with a duffel bag.

There has been no formal explanation or memo regarding McLaughlin’s status from the fire department, but several sources have told The Free Press of his ­sudden departure.

McLaughlin’s mysterious absence comes on the heels of a code-of-conduct investigation sparked when a female colleague reported he made a disparaging remark to her during a breast-cancer awareness event at work in September.

London lawyer Liz Hewitt, an outside investigator who specializes in workplace issues, was hired to investigate the complaint.

A source told The Free Press that a woman who was still in uniform had asked another woman for a undershirt so she could wear a pink T-shirt like the rest of the employees. She feared her bra would be visible through the thin fabric.

McLaughlin said something to the effect that no one would want to see “those” anyway. The source was in the room at the time of the comment.

No one is discussing on the record the reasons why McLaughlin hasn’t been at work.

An email sent to McLaughlin’s office address bounced back with an automatic reply.

“Hello. I will be out of the office for an extended period of time and will not have access nor will I be monitoring my emails,” the response read.

It directed requests for assistance to deputy fire chiefs Dave Lazenby and Lori Hamer. “Thank you and keep fire safe,” the email response concluded.

Missing from the email was the standard signature that listed McLaughlin’s name and job title and the City of London logo.

The Free Press sent emails to both deputy chiefs and to Chief John Kobarda asking about McLaughlin’s status. A phone call to the on-call fire chief on Friday was not returned. A message was left on McLaughlin’s work phone.

Coun. Mo Salih, who chairs city council’s community and protective services committee, and Coun. Paul Hubert, who chairs the corporate services committee, said they weren’t aware of McLaughlin’s sudden disappearance from the fire department or any reasons why.

City spokesperson Rob Paynter said in an email that the city doesn’t comment on personnel matters.

Jason Timlick, president of the London Professional Fire Fighters’ Association, was unavailable during the holiday weekend for comment.

McLaughlin was hired to the London post two years ago. He previously was a deputy fire chief in Windsor.

His absence comes as the city and firefighters’ association reached a tentative contract settlement. Firefighters have been working since 2010 under an expired contract.

A ratification vote on that contract is expected this week.

jsims@postmedia.com

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Source: Where’s the (deputy) chief? | The London Free Press