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Joe Clow ends tenure as King County Fire District 28 chief

Fire Chief Joe Clow - Courtesy photo
Fire Chief Joe Clow
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The King County Fire District 28 Board of Commissions continues on a rocky road  marked with controversy.

During a May 5 meeting, the board unanimously voted to accept the resignation agreement of former Fire Chief Joe Clow.

The contract will pay Clow about $125,000, which includes more than $82,000 in compensation for vacation and sick leave, along with his salary through August.

Although Clow is being paid through August, he ended his working relationship with the district May 5.

Clow was chief for five years. District Attorney Mike Reynolds said paying the former chief through August allowed him to be vested into the retirement program.

Enumclaw Police Chief Jim Zoll acted as fire chief through Monday, when Doug Dawson took over as interim fire chief. Dawson was interim fire chief after Joe Kolisch retired in 2007 and prior to Clow’s hiring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reynolds said Dawson will be paid $8,500 per month with a housing allowance of $1,500 month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commission

While the May 5 board meeting was shorter and more restrained than previous meetings, behind the curtain emotions were running high.

During a phone interview Commissioner Dave Hannity came out firing at his fellow commissioners, particularly Angie Stubblefield, concerning Clow's resignation.

According to Hannity, the issue of ending Clow's tenure with the district came "out of the blue. This is a three-person board and I got whipped up on."

According to Hannity, Stubblefield had a problem with Clow and wanted to terminate him, but there was no cause or reason.

Hannity said Stubblefield tried to, "get him on the budget, but that came out $123,000 to the good. Then she tried (the cost) of ambulance transfer and that didn't work for her. Then she said the culture of the fire department."

Hannity stated the troubles between the chief and Stubblefield dated back to the Community Advisory Group that was formed in 2013. Clow asked members of the community to join the advisory group to look at the financial and other issues facing the district. Stubblefield was one of the members asked to join.

During the process Stubblefield was removed from the group by Clow.

"I'm the one that told Joe to get her off," Hannity said. "He put her on and I told him to get her off…. It is retaliation on her part."

Hannity said he voted to ratify the resignation contract because it was "in the best interests of Joe."

Stubblefield countered that Clow resigned and was not terminated.

Concerning retaliation because Clow forced her off the advisory group, Stubblefield said, "That is simply not the case. It has nothing to do with it…. I have no animosity with the chief. I wish him well where ever he is going."

During her campaign Stubblefield said she stood up for taxpayers while a member of the advisory group.

One of the vexing issues involving the resignation is the cost to the district after two firefighter were laid off in January and two administrative staff because of the budget problems following the failure of the levy in November.

According to Hannity, the cost of the paying Clow and Dawson may cause more firefighters to be laid off.

"If they vote to lay off more firefighters it will be a total travesty," Hannity said.

Hannity said he believed Clow was a "good, solid chief. Now we are opening up a can of worms. We can't make up that $125,000."

Hannity went on to say he believes Stubblefield and her supporters are against the firefighters' union.

"It's a first-class attack against firefighters and the firefighters' union," Hannity said. "If this continues there will be a war between the union and the commission."

Stubblefield said she represents all residents of the district, not only a few supporters.

"I represent 18,000 people, those are my supporters," Stubblefield said.

She said when Dawson arrives she anticipates the board will be able to "find out where we fiscally stand. We (Stubblefield and McCall) didn't create this problem. This problem was already here. We are coming in like firefighters trying to make it better."

Stubblefield said there "is no problem between the board and the union. If there is a problem it is with the union."

In terms of the cost of the paying Clow and Dawson, she thought it would be about a "wash, if not a little less" compared to continue to play Clow through December when his contract would have ended.

Union President and King County Fire District Firefighter John Bloomer said, "If the district truly has the funds to cover this, why were they not used to prevent the firefighter layoffs in January, which resulted in a 25 percent reduction in minimum staffing levels?

Bloomer added, "I fear additional cuts will be made to our staffing and further reductions in levels of service to residents of the district will be necessary to offset the cost of the separation agreement.  As always, the Enumclaw/KCFD 28 firefighters will continue to provide the highest level of service we can with the resources we are provided."

Stubblefield said she believes, "We are moving in the right direction. I think things will fall into place. That doesn't mean we won't have missteps. It just means things are moving in the right direction."

Contract

The resignation contract negotiated by Reynolds with Clow stated neither party will speak despairingly about the other party.

The contract also stated the district will provide past employment information if a potential employer of Clow request it from the district.

The district will "not contest his application if he does apply for unemployment compensation," Reynolds said.

The contract also stated both parties, Clow and the district, "discharge each other from any further claims."

This provision will keep the district from a potential hostile work environment claim.

In a string a emails the Courier-Herald received through a public records request, Clow was inquired about filing a hostile work environment claim against Stubblefield.

Emails

• Joe Clow

On Dec. 14, 2013, Clow wrote an email to Joe Quinn, who was the district attorney at the time.

Clow to Quinn: "I am at a loss here. I will try and comply but don't know what she (Stubblefield) wants. Every budget document we've given her over the past year and a half has been in BARS format and today I sent her a document that is not BARS because the breakdown she requested had to be custom made to fill her request. We are fast approaching a hostile work environment and I am very short on patience with the continued abuse of proper protocol and ignorance of RCWs. Please advise.

 

• Joe Quinn

Quinn to Clow:

"Joe:   When responding to commissioner information requests, all you can do is give them what you have in the most understandable form.  If you do not understand a commissioner request, I suggest you should ask for clarification until you figure out what they really want. Perhaps you need to tell the board you are feeling harassed, as the demands are no longer reasonable, if that is what you are thinking.  It looks as though there is some time pressure, but that is no surprise, given the timing of commissioner appointments and the fast approaching budget deadline.  Maybe I am not clear on what she means by BARS format...and whether that is possible to do with customized documents created by looking at other documents.  I cannot tell from this email string what she asked for, other than what is listed in Commissioner McCall's email.  Obviously, he feels a strong need to learn as much as he can about the district, as fast as he can, because he is so new. Perhaps your board needs to consider a written policy covering commissioner requests for information from staff, or board-staff relations in general, similar to what South King Fire has in their board policies.

Have I sent you a copy of that before?"

 

• Angie Stubblefield

This is the email from Stubblefield on Dec. 14 that prompted Clow's query of Quinn.

 

Stubblefield to Clow:

"Commissioner McCall must have read my mind as I was drafting an email letter to you requesting many of the same documents.  I think all commissioners should receive the information Comissioner McCall requested.  Regarding our budget workshop meeting on 12/19,  please add to the agenda district policy and chain of command.

Again, I am requesting unbundled itemized BAR documents. Itemized year end documents would also be of value. When I talked with you this morning, you assured me you were supplying this information in itemized BAR form yet, this is not what I received.  To be more direct, I have asked for this information for 2 1/2 weeks as a commissioner and several times as a citizen.  This information request is time sensitive.  Please provide all of what Commissioner McCall and I have requested by 5:00 PM Monday.  We can pick up the documents at the police station.

 

Thank you,

Angie

 

• Stan McCall

McCall sent this email to Clow Dec. 13 that Stubblefield is referring to in her email to Clow.

 

McCall to Clow:

"Chief Clow,

Thank you for contacting me today.

I look forward to seeing the budget packet and participating in the discussions next Thursday.

As we discussed, in addition to the 2014 budget packet, could you please make arrangements for me to receive the following documents / materials as soon as possible:

KC FD#28 - Policy and Procedures Manual;

KC FD#28 - Code of Conduct;

KC FD#28 - Mission/Value Statement;

KC FD #28 - Organizational Chart with all Fire Employees Listed;

All Current Labor Contract/Agreement(s);

Copies of any/all currently open/awarded Grants & Grant Applications not yet awarded;

A listing of all KC FD#28 Capital Equipment;

Thank you.

Stan McCall

KC Fire Dist#28, Fire Commissioner

 

Clow's Employment Contract

The former chief's employment contract through December 2014 listed a base pay of $11,658.50 per month, $139,902 per year according to his pay stub detail from Dec. 31, 2013. The taxable amount of his pay is 132,636.

He was paid monthly $1,498.78 for his insurance premium ( $1,552 with dental added), $349.76 for longevity pay and $836.88 for Social Security opt out, which is a total compensation with the benefits listed of $172.019.04.

Through April, Clow was paid $57,339.68. His compensation through August will top out to more than $182,000. Clow's salary through August included full benefits. He is due to be fully compensated by October.

With Dawson receiving about $10,000 for salary and housing, the district will be looking at paying more than $200,000. Dawson has agreed to allow the district to defer paying part of his salary.

 

 

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