Fire district’s attorney has no concerns with contract

By Pat Grubb

In response to concerns that have been raised by the All Point Bulletin regarding the district commissioners’ approval of a new contract with fire chief Chris Carleton, district attorney Brian Snure reviewed the contract and expressed no concern with the terms.

Dated May 1, Snure’s memorandum makes it clear that he had not reviewed the contract prior to the board’s unanimous approval at a special meeting that was held on April 15, 2015. Snure noted he had received “two voice mail messages from Commissioner Meursing prior to the Board’s approval of the contract” but was unable to call back. There was no mention of his having received a copy of the proposed contract.

Asked at the April 15 meeting if the attorney had reviewed the contract and raised any concern, Meursing had replied, “If there had been legal issues, he would have called me back.” He did not explain how Snure would have been able to review the contract by listening to voice mails.

The attorney noted that the contract is substantially based on the first contract that he “assisted the board” in negotiating when Carleton was hired. That contract had to be revised after it was signed when this newspaper pointed out it rewarded the part-time chief with six weeks of vacation at the end of the first year.

Snure’s review of the 2015 contract noted that revisions “appear reasonable and … have not generated any specific issues or concerns.” However, he did not address the fact that the contract states “that all times, the District has been represented by its attorney” which is clearly false.

Nor did he address the removal of clause 10.1 which allowed the district to fire the chief for “Incompetency, inefficiency or inattention to or dereliction of duty.”

Perhaps most surprising was Snure’s assertion that accrued vacation pay was capped at 200 hours given that the contract contains no explicit clause to that effect. As the contract has three terms of five years each and the chief is able to accrue 200 hours per term, there is nothing to prevent the chief from claiming up to 600 hours if he is terminated without cause.

In a May 27 email to Snure from the All Point Bulletin, the district’s response to an open public record request made on April 23 was described as “non-responsive” to the documents sought.

The All Point Bulletin had requested the district to “produce all emails concerning fire district #5 business between commissioners and district staff for the period of March 15 to April 20, 2015. Such records should include emails to, from and between commissioners and district staff using personal, business or district email accounts.”

In the email, Snure was advised that the newspaper’s review of the district’s response concluded that, with the exception of two emails, the district had provided an apparently random collection of inter-staff emails that had no bearing on the newspaper’s request.

“Among other commissioner–staff correspondence, email communications that were referenced at public fire commission meetings that took place during the specified time period were not included in the material provided by the fire district. When [the newspaper] asked district secretary Linda Hughes why the records were not responsive to the OPR request, she appeared confused and to lack knowledge of the request.”

The email went on to point out that Ms. Hughes is not only apparently responsible for fulfilling fire district OPR requests, she is also a sitting commissioner for the Point Roberts Parks and Recreation District. Both positions require the holder to satisfy the requirements of the 2014 Open Public Government Training Act which, to date, Ms. Hughes has not.

The All Point Bulletin has requested that the fire district amend its response and to produce the relevant documents.

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