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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

We Are All Calmed Down

The meeting was held and lasted a little over an hour.  It was at 4 pm because Mr. Meursing was on vacation and had flown back to attend but needed to fly back to his vacation before it got dark.

First of all, the chairs and tables were all arranged as usual but the first row had little white tents on the tables announcing that those chairs were reserved: 2 for Commission Staff and 2 for Press.  Pretty Fancy!  A gentleman from the public arrived, and announced to the air that he was very hard of hearing and would like to be able to sit in one of those first-row chairs.  Because I knew that only one of our press attendees would be there and because I was pretty sure that the Commission had only one staff attending, I urged the man to take one of the seats.

And then a lady from the public sitting to my right in row 2 informed me that I had no right to be giving away what was not mine.  I considered giving her a little talk about the requirements of the Americans with Disability Act under the reasonable accommodation section, but didn't.  Apparently, we were not yet all in a good mood.

And then the Commissioners and Mr. Carleton arrived.  I don't know whether to attribute it to the restorative powers of vacations, prescription meds, or having finally figured out the political costs of the last two meetings, but Mr. Meursing spoke to us very conciliatorily, even saying that, despite the harshly worded announcements about no comments from the public, we would indeed be allowed to ask questions and that he was very happy to have us there: 'happier than you know,' he added.  A provocative statement suggesting a mysterious complication.

They approved the minutes.  And I've finally got it that they don't vote.  They just make motions and second them, and then they think that's a vote.  I don't think so, but I'm not a Commissioner.

Then, they read the contract for Mr. Carleton in full (more or less--there was considerable boiler plate that they slid by).  The contract itself will be posted on the Fire District's website within a week so you, too, can read it.  And if you have questions, Meursing and Riffle will be happy to have you contact them by email or by phone.

Carleton will be employed 20 hours/week at a salary of $3400/month with 100% CPI raises each year.  The contract will extend to 12/31/2015, and will be renewable for 3 years, but can be cancelled with a 180-day notice (rather more than Kiniski got).  They can fire him for cause or without cause, but in either case it has to go to mediation and arbitration.  (That doesn't make sense to me and they didn't seem to understand it either, but when questioned offered to look into it with their lawyer.)

He gets 10 hours of vacation leave per month, but no health or dental insurance because his full-time job as Fire Chief in Ferndale provides him with all those benefits.  "Money saved," says Meursing.

The three at the table in front then engaged in some considerable Q&A with the 11 or 12 people in attendance, with strained good humor, I thought.  The Commissioners never considered advertising the position or have a search committee for candidates because in 2009 they did that and it didn't work out (That fire chief lasted only a month, and without 180 days of notice.)

And then they did their making motions dance and Carleton became the new Fire Chief.

I talked to Carleton for awhile afterwards.  He wants to be liked and he wants to be likeable.  And he seems the latter.  He has experience.  I wish him well.  It's in all our interests that his tenure be rewarding and competency-based.

I reserve judgment about the Commissioners, though.  A little slow to see what harm they were doing over the past month.

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