Recalls filed against commissioners

Published on Thu, Apr 17, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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Recalls filed against commissioners

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

There�s another fire for North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Services (NWFRS) to put out, this one in the form of commissioner recalls.

Two residents in districts 3 and 13 have filed recall petitions against four commissioners, all of whom sit on the NWFRS superboard. Fenton Norman, a resident in fire district 13, recently filed against Butch Hinchey and William Salter, district 13 commissioners.

Norman had originally filed against commissioners Roger Hawley and Rich Bosman in district 3, but the petitions had been thrown out because Norman no longer lived in the district. Tami Wallace, a district 3 resident, filed against Hawley and Bosman.

The petitions allege that the commissioner improperly handled the hiring of a new financial manager and the cutting of two jobs in February, those of assistant chief Bob Hamstra and volunteer coordinator Barb Wallace, who is the mother of Tami Wallace. It also states that volunteer funds were used for district expenses, staff was improperly assigned, and the closed Semiahmoo fire station caused increased insurance rates and policy problems for homeowners.

Dave Chmelick, legal counsel for the NWFRS, stated in an open meeting last week that there is no real credibility for these recalls, and they may cost North Whatcom districts between $10,000 and $30,000 in defense. Commissioners Hinchey and Salter acknowledged they would like counsel from North Whatcom.

Interim fire administrator Dave Crossen said there is no validity to these recalls. �It�s kind of sad that the district has to spend money for this. It�s a poor way to spend taxpayer�s money.�

Crossen also said the recalls have pretty much been a non-issue around the station and have not affected the morale of North Whatcom personnel.

The NWFRS, a mix of fire districts 3, 5 and 13, merged in 2001. However the agency has experienced serious growing pains since its inception. More recently, district 3 volunteers have been pressuring the district to pull out of North Whatcom, and threatened to stop training. Crossen, in turn, threatened to suspend volunteers.

Currently, the volunteers and administration have been meeting to discuss issues and volunteers have continued training. �Those meetings are going real well and real positive,� Crossen said.

Fenton Norman could not be reached for comment before press time.

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