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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Shameful Performance by the Fire Commissioners

Well, I'm just back from the Fire Commissioners' Special Meeting and am absolutely stunned.  But if I'd followed the actions of the Fire Commissioners more closely, maybe I would have had a better idea of whom we're dealing with here.  So I offer a couple of events over the past decade for context.  

1.  In 2003, the Fire Commissioners abruptly pulled District 5 out of a 3-year agreement to work with other fire districts in northern Whatcom County.  The only two Commissioners at the time were Meursing and Gellatly.  Their decision put the Wellness Clinic in a difficult administrative spot but they insisted that it be done immediately.  "I don't think you've done your homework here, fire district 13 commissioner Butch Hinchey told Meursing and fellow district 5 commissioner David Gellatly. I think you're making more of an emotional stand than a logical one." 

2.  In 2009, the Fire Commissioners (including Meursing and Gellatly) hired a new fire chief, one Mark Ellison.  A month later, they fired him.

These appear to be people who act first and think later.  And tonight's meeting simply seemed a further demonstration of their total inadequacy.

About a hundred people showed up tonight.  That is a very large number of people at a Point Roberts meeting and there were lots of people standing because there weren't enough chairs (more bad planning).  The meeting began on time and Commissioner Gellatly announced the meeting's agenda.  The public members in attendance were to be allowed to comment, each for up to 3 minutes.  Then the newly-appointed Fire Chief, Mr. Carleton, would attempt to respond to their questions.  And that, in effect, would be the end of the meeting.  There was some outcry from the public, whose objections and displeasure only grew louder over the next half hour or so, but the Commissioners ignored these words, as if they were random noises.

The public commenters repeatedly pointed out that they wanted to ask questions of the Commissioners about what had happened, not just make comments into the air.  Great bursts of public applause each time that point was made.  Gellatly declared there was to be no applause.

The public commenters quickly finished their comments (almost all of which were largely critical of the decision to fire Kiniski without giving any reasons or explanations; an exception was Bruno M. who hoped the decision had been based on the Commissioners' desire to save money).  Then the Commissioners three--Meursing, Gellatly, and Riffle--threw their newly-appointed Fire Chief Carleton to the crowd, which was definitely not in a friendly mood.  The Commissioners sat at their table looking like death warmed over while Carleton dragged on and the public again began to voice their disapproval.

If my new employer had made me do what Carleton was required to do, I would quit in an instant and it is not to Carleton's credit that he agreed to engage in the shameful work that he was put to.  He maundered on about his credentials and his friendship with Nick Kiniski and his devotion to Point Roberts (although he didn't get into the issue of his already having a full-time job in Ferndale).  But the public didn't care about any of this.  "You are not the issue," was repeatedly heard.

And finally, he was forced by the irritation of the public to sit down.  The public vocally and repeatedly insisted that they wanted to hear not from Mr. Carleton but from the Commissioners.  The Commissioners took on the grim look that would be familiar to any Politboro follower: Putin A, Putin B, Putin C.  Their demeanor was that of men who answer to nothing and to no one.  That was it.  That was the 'information.'  The Commissioners were escorted out of the room by the Sheriff's Deputy.  And the meeting was over.

What are we to conclude?  Well, a large group of community members who came expecting to receive information about the decision the Commissioners had announced last week, received instead the full flow of the Commissioners' contempt for them.  The questions, views, attitudes, and concerns of the community residents who had come to this meeting to understand what had happened were obviously of no interest, concern, or importance to the Commissioners Three.

And for me?  Well, incompetent management by the Fire Commissioners doesn't even begin to capture how I felt by the end of this meeting.  Get them out of office ASAP would be more like it.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Judy for your report.

Shame on them.

Get them out ASAP? How?

Bennett said...

The only way to get them out is recall which is very difficult in Washington although there is some recent precedent to do this to fire commisioners. You can read about the recall efforts of the commisioners in Jefferson County Fire Protection District 2 at:


With the State Supreme Court ruling that a possible violation of the Open Public Meetings Act is sufficient cause to allow the recall move, those who want to iniate a recall may find justification to proceed.


Pat Birchall said...

Well it seems, Bennett, that we have our work cut out for us. First step, according to the Whatcom County Auditor is to consult with an attorney to find out if we have just cause to circulate recall petitions. You cannot, it seems, throw the bums out just because you disagree with them.

And Madame Blog, fine reporting, just not descriptive enough of the contempt shown to the voters and concerned and upset residents of Point Roberts who felt they have been served very well by Chief Kiniski and his department.

One wonders what exactly the real agenda of Mr. Gellatly is. I say Mr. Gellatly because it seemed from the meeting that he is the mover and shaker of the three of them. Isn't this the second Point public service he's been involved in showing his fangs and wish to control?

And I agree that Mr. Carleton did not make a good impression at all; he brought to mind another FORMER B'ham paramedic named Julian who was eventually fired for his behavior ... all braggadocio and little connection to the patient, in this case, the people who came to find out why on earth we are being taxed (and voted ourselves an additional levy) to finance a better department when we are getting instead a chief and paramedic who has a full time job in Ferndale and lives in Bellingham. What we had all along with little need to replace was a fire chief and paramedic who lives right here in our own community and has for years. Someone who knows us and has treated us all very well and professionally for a long time. If there was a good reason to fire Nick Kiniski, the commissioners did not feel the need to explain to us why.

Throw the Bums out, indeed and let the finger vote be counted.

Anonymous said...

At the APB website someone asked about the meeting. I posted a link to Judy's blog as one person's point of view but it's been a few hours now and I suppose they won't allow it. Things are just so competitive these days.