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King County Fire District 28 legal troubles discussed at special meeting

King County Fire District 28 commissioner, Dave Hannity, Angie Stubblefield and Stan McCall - Courtesy photo
King County Fire District 28 commissioner, Dave Hannity, Angie Stubblefield and Stan McCall
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The King County Fire District 28 board of commissioners called a special meeting May 27 to respond to a complaint filed against the district and board members Angela Stubblefield and Stan McCall.

The complaint was filed in King County Superior Court May 14 by Duncan C. Turner, representing Ted and Mary Fehr.

The suit alleges the commissioners violated the state Open Public Meetings Act. The court document cited three counts of alleged violations.

At the special meeting, McCall and Mike Reynolds, fire district attorney, addressed the complaint.

The board also passed a motion on the 2-1 vote concerning payment of legal council for the commissioners.

Complaints

Reynolds went over the complaints at the meeting. In the first alleged violation involving emails from Stubblefield copied to the commissioners where McCall responded.

Reynolds said the emails are often described as a “chain email” and there is a “good argument where or not if you copy someone on an email if it is a chain email.”

The second count involves Stubblefield and McCall attending a training during a spending freeze.

Reynolds said he and Nancy Krier, assistant attorney general for open government, recommended the commissioners attend a training.

Reynolds said former Chief Joe Clow ordered the freeze, but they were requested by Reynolds and Krier to attend the training.

The third involves the allegation at an April 17 executive session a vote was taken involving the termination of Clow. According to the court document, Hannity “vehemently voted no and stated his belief that the vote taken during executive session was illegal.”

Reynolds said regarding the statement from Hannity in the court document, “No. 1 he (Hannity) had never taken a position it was an illegal meeting and there was no vote taken in that executive session.”

Reynolds asked Hannity if that was correct and Hannity said, “correct.”

Reynolds said the court document quotes Hannity as saying that, “but as you have just learned, he didn’t say it.”

 

Motion

McCall made the motion stating the board would, “maintain a dialogue with our newly assigned council to determine this best strategic course of action that will be in the best interests of the district balancing that with what will be in the best interests of the individual commissioners.”

McCall’s motion continued with, “if in the opinion of the board it comes necessary to select and hire private council to further those objectives all associated costs and legal fees incurred shall be borne by the district.”

McCall said if the attorney hired by the district’s insurance carrier, Michael Tierney, from the Mercer Island firm Tierney & Blakney, is not representing the the individual commissioners in a way they “think appropriated in the matter, or if the attorney backs out and decids not to represent us at all, I want this board to be able to hire council and continue to defend this district and ourselves in this lawsuit.”

Hannity voted no on the motion and Stubblefield voted yes with McCall.

Hannity said he did not want to see “anybody take financial hardships in a lawsuit” but he could not support the motion, “because we have encumbered this district financially so hard in the last few months I don’t see how we can take the pressure any longer…. I think it is a terrible conflict of interest.”

Mike Reynolds, the fire district attorney, said he apposed the motion.

“It’s unfortunate I have to go against my commissioners. My job is not to represent you guys but to represent the district.”

Reynolds said the district has a “duty to indemnify our officials in the regular course of their duties, and right now it appears to be that.”

Reynolds added, “You never know in litigation what comes out of the woods.”

When Hannity dissented, Stubblefield said, “we are in this mess because of there was a statement made that said you made a statement you have now since denied.”

Stubblefield said Hannity did not “go into the paper (Courier-Herald) and say you didn’t say that.”

Stubblefield said Hannity also made the statement on “your Facebook.”

Hannity retorted he did not have a Facebook page.

Stubblefield fired back stating be had associations with people who had a Facebook page.

 

Discussion

McCall said during the meeting the Fehr’s  have a number of choices involving the suit including dismissing the claim or removing the two commissioners names from the suit and only sue the district.

McCall said he did not want to encumber the district with legal fees.

“This I believe is a frivolous action, I believe it is baseless and extremely weak on all three counts,” McCall said. “And I think it is something we can easily win in fact if we had to go to trial.”

McCall said he had no intention of violating the Open Public Meetings Act.

“I don’t want to violated the Open Public Meetings Act,” McCall said. “I think my job is to represent the taxpayers and I can’t do that if I am making mistakes.”

McCall said after 35 years as a police officer this is the first time he has ever been named in a law suit. He said he has a responsibility to his family to make the right decision.

“I recognize that I share some personal responsibility associated with what is going on here,” McCall said. “ I feel like I haven’t been as communicative with some of you as I probably should have. I wish there was a way to convince those people who are not in favor of what this board is doing our actions and our decisions are in the best interests of the district and best interests of the fire department. I wish there was a way to communicate that.”

He said the district is in a financial mess and “when you try to fix a mess you sometimes you makes messes, too.”

Stublefield said, “We are very new and we have walked into some missteps. We’ll probably walk into a few  more before we are finally experienced enough to recognize how to do this.”

Fehr's Court Document

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