Federal Way fire district needs couples therapy, investigation | If I Were Czar

Matthew Jarvis - Contributed
Matthew Jarvis
— image credit: Contributed

If I were Czar, I would fire South King Fire and Rescue Chief Al Church (“for cause” so he doesn’t collect on his ridiculous $300,000 severance package), kick all of the commissioners out of office and shut down the district. Let me explain.

As discussed by Mr. Federal Way and Bob Reogner, the legal investigation Church launched against Commissioner Mark Frietas was simply ridiculous. Any adult who files a complaint because “he stares at me during meetings” clearly lacks the emotional maturity to lead an organization as critical to our community as South King Fire. Ignoring any of the other mistakes Church has been accused of making, this childish act alone should be grounds for immediate termination.

I suppose, however, that I too would be angry if someone like Frietas, who has no front-line experience, accused me of doing a bad job, of providing special treatment for my son, of illegally influencing elections and of generally unethical behavior. While I don’t excuse the chief’s actions, I understand his anger and frustration. It’s safe to say that we have all made mistakes when someone pushes our buttons for too long.

On the other hand, the chief’s investigation was not a punch thrown in anger, but rather a carefully calculated decision that he should have recognized as being totally absurd.

If we are going to call for the chief’s resignation, then it only makes sense to call for the resignation of the people who approved the chief’s request to waste $20,000 investigating childish complaints against Frietas. Like schoolyard kids yelling “fight, fight, fight,” Commissioners Bill Gates, James Fossos, Mark Thompson and John Rickert also lacked the emotional maturity to stop this nonsense (or maybe they are so deep in the chief’s pocket that they never stopped to think for themselves).

Unfortunately, if we force the commissioners to resign, there isn’t exactly a long list of qualified candidates lining up for that job. For some reason, the fire district seems to only attract people who are more interested in drama than results. Firing the chief and the commissioners would likely result in a new group of people with a similar set of problems.

This is where we get back to shutting down the district. By shutting it down, we can hopefully purge most of this drama from our community. Naturally, we can’t be without fire and rescue, nor does anyone want to put our fine emergency responders out of a job.

As such, at the same time we shut down the district, we would form Federal Way Fire and Rescue as a department inside of City Hall. Just like our Police Department, Federal Way Fire and Rescue would be run by the mayor and City Council. While this group is far from perfect, our mayor and Council look like saints compared to the leadership at South King Fire and Rescue. In addition to hopefully reducing drama, scandal and fraud, this merger would result in significant cost savings.

Despite a host of benefits, the merger of South King Fire and City Hall has even lower odds than the Mariners winning the World Series. As such, I will use my last few lines of this column to plead with Commissioners Gates, Fossos, Thompson and Rickert to please demonstrate that you are in fact representing taxpayers and not your good old boys’ club. Follow the mayor’s example and form an independent Blue Ribbon Panel to investigate Frietas’s claims against the chief (which are far more serious in nature than “he’s looking at me”).

As for Church and Frietas, please go to couples therapy. You are both great men who are incredibly dedicated to our community. Short of angering the voters enough to shut you down, the fate of the fire district is in your hands. I ask that you please swallow your pride, forgive offenses and begin working together to make our community a better place.

And yes, I will be staring at you during our next meeting.

Contact Federal Way resident Matthew Jarvis at Matthew@jarvisfinancial.com.


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