Opinion

The secret world of fire contract negotiations

I'm not talking about union negotiations, either. Heaven knows there are enough lobbyists that watch that sort of thing.

Last week Fire District 38 commissioners Ron Pedee, Chris Daline and Steve Parsons notified us they were going to have a meeting. They let us know with the minimum 24 hours required that their meeting would be at the Fire District 38 offices. Leif asked me where the official district offices were and I couldn't answer. The secretary, Trina Parsons, contacted us later that day to inform Leif that the district's official office is at the house of her and her husband, commissioner Steve Parsons, and thus would be the location of the meeting.

Am I the only one that thinks it's wrong to provide minimal notice about a meeting of public officials and hold the meeting at someone's house? Not to mention the fact that the commissioner is getting compensated by the district for having the offices at his house; plus, his wife serves as secretary for the fire district's board of commissioners. It just doesn't seem to lend itself to open, fair, unbiased, communication.

But that's not the half of it. Nobody at the city of North Bend knew about the meeting, at which commissioners planned to discuss the upcoming contract with Eastside Fire and Rescue. Remember, the commissioners sold their levy lid lift with the idea that they were partners with the city of North Bend. Wouldn't it be prudent to include a city official or city manager in the discussions?

Then, let's talk about 24 hours notice. Yes, that is the minimum required by law, but if we really want to be fair, open and have all the cards on the table, let's get a notice in the paper and invite anyone interested to attend and hear the discussions. Too many times the discussion happens at a poorly attended meeting and then when action is to be taken at the official monthly meeting, the public has missed the discussion.

The meeting was also in direct violation of the Open Public Meetings Act. The three commissioners went into executive session to discuss a matter with the stated purpose of discussing contracts with the city of North Bend. Contract discussions where taxpayer dollars are being spent with another public agency is in no way an exemption to the Open Public Meetings Act. These discussions need to be out in the open with plenty of public notice so those interested can attend and ask questions.

Yes, I voted to increase the levy lid lift to the full dollar amount, but that doesn't mean I am willing to provide a blank check for negotiations with other agencies. As a constituent, I expect to be informed about negotiations and what we are willing to do or not do.

The commissioners have also kicked around the idea of consolidating with District 10 out of Issaquah as was discussed at a recent meeting between District 10 and District 38 commissioners. That's also a bad idea since there would be even less local control than there is now.

Shame on commissioners Ron Pedee, Chris Daline and Steve Parsons for creating an air of secretiveness, and shame on them for not holding all meetings at a public location with plenty of publicity. If you don't think the public has a right to know your ideas or direction, then you shouldn't be a fire commissioner.

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