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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 25, 2009 at 6:00 AM

Fire department ethics scandal

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Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times

Seattle Fire Department Battalion Chief and whistleblower Jim Woodbury, during an interviewed with the Seattle Times.

Conduct calls for harsh discipline

Editor, The Times:

The citizens of Seattle deserve better. The administering of a verbal reprimand by Fire Chief Dean to one of his employees is just beyond the pale [“Report: Fire official’s demotion not retaliation,” page one, April 22].

It was alleged that Fire Department Lt. Milt Footer had failed to bill the Seattle Seahawks’ owners $195, 697 for fire services, as well as “demanded” a backstage pass to a popular event. That waste of public funds clearly violates the public’s trust in the fire department and constitutes unethical conduct. Such conduct while employed by a public agency calls for harsh discipline, not a mere slap on the wrist.

However, it appears Fire Chief Greg Dean’s verbal reprimand of one his subordinates will stand. The legal concept of double jeopardy will preclude the chief from administering further discipline.

Mayor Nickels, it is now time to replace the city’s fire chief, who in all likelihood was aware of this fact.

— Donald E. Olson Jr., Tacoma

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire

There is an odor wafting northward to my home in Lynnwood that is dismaying as well as disgusting.

Just how stupid do Seattle Fire Department officials and the Seattle Mayor’s Office think their constituents really are? A reasonably intelligent eighth-grader can connect the dots and come up with a picture that looks depressingly like bad business as usual in the way public servants have responded to whistle-blowing by one of their own.

It strains credulity to have us believe that assistant fire chiefs did not know of Jim Woodbury’s whistle-blowing when they demoted him and cut his pay 22 percent after he objected to Lt. Milt Footer’s betrayal of public trust. Even more appalling was to read that the city of Seattle wasted $500,000 investigating this sorry mess to come up with a conclusion that defies description in language printable in a newspaper.

I’ve lived in the Seattle area for 35 years and it’s sad watching a city I love being led by people who are not competent to keep the streets plowed and to keep the fire department shoveled out when its members foul their nest.

It’s time for fresh leadership for Seattle and for its fire department.

— Diane E. Young, Lynnwood

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