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Disappointed by fire commissioner's twisted facts | Election letters
South King Fire Commissioner Bill Gates, I would expect an attack piece with twisted facts from Jerry Galland, but not from you ("Fire commissioner says Jerry Galland spreads lies and innuendo," letters, Oct. 23).
I’ll give you that Jerry is a real pain in the butt, especially when it comes to the public record requests, police reports, complaints to the state auditor and health department, and enforcing the Second Amendment at commissioner meetings.
However, responding to his twisted facts with your own twisted facts is hardly “setting the record straight.” Since you seem so interested in the “facts,” let’s take a closer look at your record.
Yes, the district achieved a Class 2 rating under your leadership, but so what? If SKFR is the only district in Washington with a Class 2 rating, obviously nobody else, including the insurance companies, thinks it is very important. According to multiple studies, going from a level 3 to a level 2 rating had almost no impact on residential or commercial insurance rates. In addition, ISO ratings ignore medical responses, which outnumber fires in our district 26 to 1.
While you are to be congratulated on 11 clean audits, your auditors failed to notice that your former CFO had embezzled more than $500,000 from the district. Hardly a spotless record.
The fire chief’s son may not have broken the law, but the commissioners should have never let the chief’s son be hired. Nepotism, real or imagined, is a serious problem in any organization. The bigger issue here is that you discredited fellow commissioner Mark Freitas as “a supporter of Galland.” You are the first person I have ever met that has questioned Mark’s integrity, especially in such a public setting.
If I recall correctly, Mark was the only commissioner who voted against the service benefit charge in 2010, which, despite the significant amounts you spent on consultants, failed miserably at the ballots. I guess in your mind, he was only doing that as “a supporter of Galland” and not because he believed that it was in the best interest of the citizens he was elected to represent.
The property the district purchased for a future training center is, at best, a disaster. You financed this purchased for $4.7 million, in the middle of the financial crisis, despite knowing that massive revenue cuts were coming. Like the city’s purchase of the Toys R' Us site, the seller saw you coming and charged you significantly more than the property was worth. All this for the pipe dream of building your own state-of-the-art training facility.
The chief’s contract reads: “In the event the department elects to terminate (the chief) prior to the expiration of this employment agreement for reasons other than for cause, (the chief) shall be entitled to twenty-four months severance pay (approximately $340,000).” Jerry’s statement may have been a half-truth, but it is hardly a lie. Several fire districts, including ones in our own state, have decided to fire their chief, without cause, under very suspicious circumstances, just so he could claim the severance pay.
Our last city manager, Neal Beets, also ran a multimillion-dollar organization, but his severance was limited to a more reasonable six months of pay (which oddly enough was the chief’s severance package when you took office).
While I too will certainly be labeled as “a supporter of Galland,” this is by no means an endorsement of Jerry. Sadly, it seems that even in the most local of elections, citizens are forced to pick the least bad candidate. As for me, I’m always hard pressed to pick the devil I don’t know over the devil I do know. Then again, how much damage can Jerry do being one vote out of five? Maybe instead of every commissioner vote being 4-1, they would now be 3-2.
Matthew Jarvis, Federal Way