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December 8, 1997

Local News

Newest commissioner sworn in

  by Al Hooper
   Last Tuesday night, the Board of Commissioners for the Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District watched as Tim Osgood took his oath of office.
   Budget approved
   Osgood's first order of business was participating in the approving of the proposed 1998 budget of $5,638,005, an increase over 1997 by $157,140. At the heavily attended public hearing 8 people addressed the board asking questions about many of the individual line items. Commissioner Callon responded by asking all present "to consider that in order for us to answer each and every question, line item by line item, it would probably require the meeting to go past midnight, and I don't think any of us want that."
   Terri Englebrecht then asked why the public couldn't have answers to its questions. May offered to send an e-mail reply, or a letter, or a phone call to the questioners, but Englebrecht voiced the opinion that everybody wanted to know the answers, not just the questioner. A Woodinville Weekly staff member volunteered to publish a synopsis of the questions and answers. After the public comment, the board approved a resolution adopting the projected budget and revenue collections. Callon then read into the record the amount of the intended budget, which was $50,000 less than the amount just approved.
   An outcry was raised, and Battalion Chief Cliff Griffin was the first to ask Callon if he was reading from a different sheet than the rest of the attendees. Callon replied that he had met with the chief that afternoon after the printing of the proposed budget currently in everyone's hands and had determined that another $50,000 could be trimmed from the overall budget. When Commissioner Tim Osgood asked Callon exactly what line items were to be trimmed, Callon answered that "Commissioners' compensation and diesel fuel are two big ones that come to mind."
   Osgood pressed for all of the line items that would be impacted by the reduction, but attorney Clark Snure stepped into the impending fray, stating "In my opinion, the resolution that you just passed is the amount that will be sent to King County. If you wish to amend the proposed budget, you can do so, but you'll then have to have another public hearing and approve a new resolution that shows the new amount. It would be better to just send this approved budget in to the county now and amend it later," drawing thunderous applause from the 45 or more attendees. Callon then re-read the results of the motion, using the original figure.
   During the regular meeting of the board, public comment speakers took the board to task for its actions two weeks ago in appointing Ed Anderson to fill the seat left vacant by Commissioner Don Leggett's retirement. Battalion Chief Phil Paige spoke, "When I found out what the board had done, I was embarrassed and disappointed at the lack of public process... The fact that the chairman of this board had requested remuneration for the performance of official commissioner duties, described as 'Interview with Ed Anderson at Shari's, which took place on Sept. 22 (over a month before the 'surprise' vacancy occurred.) This, combined with the fact that two other commissioners told me, and at least a half dozen other employees, that they had already chosen a good replacement for Leggett, clearly indicates that the Open Public Meetings Act was violated. RCW 42.30.06 states 'any action taken at a meeting failing to comply with the provisions of this section shall be null and void'."
   But Paige recommended that Anderson be given a chance to prove himself as a commissioner and hoped that the rest of the board act in an open manner. He also wanted the district to re-focus on getting back to the business of providing quality fire service. In a follow-up telephone interview with Chairman Frank Peep, he stated that he had interviewed several other candidates for the upcoming opening, including Tim Osgood, even though Osgood had already filed for the upcoming elections. Peep said, "I don't think that I've done anything wrong in interviewing potential candidates. Some of those interviews were impromptu, so I didn't file a request for compensation in those cases."
   "I look at those interviews as part of my job, and I used the resulting information to decide on who to vote for, when it came time to replace Don [Leggett]. I firmly believe that the district got the best benefit from my knowledge by my having done this. If I hadn't talked to any of these people, how could I have made a properly informed decision?"