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December 29, 1997

Local News

Citizens demand Commissioner's resignation

  by Al Hooper
   On Tuesday the 16th of December, the Board of Commissioners for the Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District heard from several district residents as they quoted from sections of the recently released Internal Survey. Citing the extreme dissatisfaction shown in the survey, no less than four individuals demanded the immediate resignation of Commissioner Dave Callon.
   The Internal Survey is a report card to the board on how the fire fighters feel about such issues as: training and preparation, departmental policies, outdoor burning, inspection and prevention programs and current management practices, among other topics.
   Reading from prepared statements, Citizens Mary Baum, Teri Englebrecht, Deborah Crawford and Kathy Agnew each referred to different statements made in the Survey. While most of the quoted statements were anonymous, several were signed by fire fighters. Nearly all of the extracted quotes reflected a common thread, namely a very high dissatisfaction with the current Board's management practices, and in particular with "Callon's ...antics, rudeness, and obviously personal agenda."
   Each of the four presenters reminded the board that during the review of the previous Internal Survey, the public was repeatedly told that the Survey plays an "important part in formulating our policies," and that "we know that we have to take into consideration what the fire fighters are saying." All four of them stated that they felt the results of the Survey, combined with the public outcry over recent Board actions in the appointment of Commissioner Ed Anderson, mandated that the board "accept responsibility for its actions" and that "Callon should resign immediately." Baum asked the commissioners to "take the appropriate actions that everyone is demanding and not force the customers of this district to circulate petitions to make you take those actions, because that will only damage each of you further".
   Agnew prefaced her comments with a request to Callon, saying in part: "I don't know what you found so funny about the other speakers before me, but I hope you treat both their comments and mine with the respect that we all deserve. Let me assure you that this is serious business, and that we will not go away just because you see fit to ignore us by reading something when we are speaking, and then grinning as if our comments are having no impact."
   Englebrecht, speaking last, started by stating that "It appears to me that the fire fighters feel as if they have no clear direction from the board. They feel as if they are being hindered at every turn, and they are incensed that Callon would represent himself as a commissioner of this district, and then speak out publicly, on the record no less, as being against the EMS levy that failed on Nov. 4th. (See the following No EMS Support.)
   I also wonder what one of the fire fighters was referring to when he said that we should eliminate the attorney's $54,000 annual salary. That looks to me like a good place to start cutting the budget, if it needs any cutting." Englebrecht finished by quoting from a signed letter accompanying the Survey. In part, it reads "...Bravo David! Your achievements should not go uncongratulated, for it is obvious that it is just such discord that you strive to achieve. But please do this district a favor and take your contrarian energies elsewhere - protecting life and property is not a game. Your actions as a fire commissioner are not admirable; they are potentially dangerous."
   No EMS support
   Wally Holstad, president-elect of the fire fighters union, Local #2950, stated to the Board that the local fully supports the upcoming EMS levy and noted for the record that each member of the local has pledged $100 dollars towards the passage of the levy. He asked that the Board go on record with a resolution stating its support for the levy.
   Later in the meeting, a motion was made to formalize the Board's support for the February EMS levy. Callon and Anderson both stated that they were in favor of the services provided by the EMS program, but were not happy with the method of funding. They felt that a levy was not the proper way to fund such a basic service. Commissioner Tim Osgood asked where the money should come from, if not a levy. He felt that if the program were supported out of the general fund, it was doomed to failure because of "the normal give-and-take of politics and budgets". The motion to support the levy failed on a 2-2 vote, with Commissioner Ben May absent.
   Budget concerns
   Callon moved that the board reduce the 1998 budget by $50,000. In support of his motion, he made a short slide presentation showing how reductions ranging up to 352% could be saved from just 9 different line items. His total projected dollar savings for reducing commissioners' wages, duty pay, pay incentives, annual physicals, education/tuition, bunker gear, gasoline and diesel fuel and vehicle maintenance is $63,360.
   When asked why he wanted to spend more time on the budget now, after having just passed it the previous meeting, Callon stated that he wanted "to send a message to Chief Smith, in effect saying that we have to budget for realistic anticipations and expectations, not for maximum possible contingencies."
   Deputy Chief Dominic Marzano spoke to the board, noting that he was speaking as an individual, and not as a representative of the management team. He stated that he doesn't "feel the board can be trusted to approve somewhat large amounts of money for so-called contingencies. I believe that the direction the board is going will curtail the spending in another area if it approves a request, thereby damaging something that should have never been part of the consideration at all."
   Marzano finished with "Finally, running a fire department is not the same as running a corporation or business. If we don't plan for contingencies, and by extension, if we don't budget for them, then we might as well not have any plans at all, because our customers, the citizens of this district, don't think it's a contingency to save their lives or their property. I urge you to reconsider your motives in making this motion."
   After stating that "We should get out of the micro-management business," Callon called for the vote, and the motion passed 3-1, with Osgood the lone dissenter.
   The commissioners normally meet at 6 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at the District Headquarters, located at 19900 144th Ave NE. They can be reached via voice mail at 425-483-2131.