Updated 12-10-10

Overtime Pay For Carrying the Colors

You have seen the SKF&R Honor Guard at events around Federal Way and western Washington. And each time they elicited your applause and praise by proudly displaying our National Flag.

You probably thought this was a dramatic display of community service at its best, right?

Did you know that they are being paid several hours of OVERTIME PAY for that few minutes of marching?

Visit the SKF&R Operations page and you will read that these people are being described as a “dedicated group of members” who supposedly “volunteer their time and financial support” “to serve as ambassadors to the public, presenting a positive image of their service, and assisting with the recruiting effort.”

But in November of 2006, to attend the funeral of one of their own, five members of the Honor Guard collected over *$1250 in overtime money for the ‘honor’. Rehearsal and presentation of colors used up 30.75 hours of time ($40.75 per hour) for that 10 minutes of public visibility. And every other firefighter at the funeral was there for the sentiment, receiving no compensation for attending.

In January of 2010 just four members took home over *$1500 in overtime pay to ‘honor’ a past chief. This time the ten minute display took only 30 hours of involvement for these four members was worth $1547. ($51.60 an hour)

At another service held for former Chief Packer in August of 2008, the lone Honor Guard attendee charged only *$101 for his two hours of duty.

But the web site sells the team this way “The team conducts two training meetings a month and its members volunteer to participate both on and off duty.

I am still investigating, but I have every reason to believe that every appearance of the Honor Guard would be the same, Overtime pay for what the Chief calls Volunteering. Lets see what the next round of PRA records reveals.

From Blacks Law Dictionary, second edition:

Volunteer – A person who gives his services without any express or implied promise of renumeration in return is called a “volunteer”, and is entitled to no renumeration for his services.

These people are not volunteers, they are highly paid employees, highly motivated by nothing but more money. And it is your tax dollars paying for this overtime largess to them.

Instead of being volunteers, apparently your Chief Allen Church must REQUIRE these good public servants to attend these functions on their days off. That is the only place in the contract that would allow for the district to pay overtime pay.

Does that take the shine off of “Honor” in the title Honor Guard?

(as of December 9, 2010, highlights and accent added) Direct from the SKF&R website:

Honor Guard

An honor guard is a ceremonial escort, often military in nature, usually composed of volunteers who are carefully screened for their ability and physical dexterity. Only those persons who are highly motivated and maintain exceptionally high standards of appearance and conduct and show aptitude for ceremonial duty are considered. The primary purpose of an honor guard is to provide funeral honors for fallen comrades. An honor guard may also serve as the “guardians of the colors”. They present colors for various ceremonies and official functions. Additionally, honor guards serve as ambassadors to the public, presenting a positive image of their service, and assisting with the recruiting effort.

The South King Fire & Rescue Honor Guard is a dedicated group of members who recognize and represent those who have given there lives to the protection and safety of the public.

The South King Fire & Rescue Honor Guard was formed in 2000 and has twelve members. They are all Firefighters who volunteer their time and financial support. The Honor Guard has a high profile role in the public relations efforts of the South King Fire & Rescue. The diversity we proudly celebrate in our department is reflected in the ranks of the Honor Guard. Current members include: Capt Aaron Weeks, Capt Dave Michaels, Lt Barry Hassell, Firefighter Layne Winter, Joel Bergfalk, Wendy Chinn, Brenda Fromhold, Cortney Cullison, Travis McKenney, Chris Cahan, Ed Rickert, and Anthony John

The mission of the South King Fire & Rescue Honor Guard is to serve as representatives of the Fire Department at formal occasions as directed by the Fire Chief. The Honor Guard projects a positive image of the Department and its members by performing as a well trained professional team at local and national events. The Honor Guard is dedicated to honor, remember and celebrate active, retired and fallen Fire Department members, and their families.

In addition, the SKF&R Honor Guard is proud to offer services to Firefighters from across the state and nation. The unit has participated in events ranging from memorial services to parades, including the Mariners fans at Safeco Field and honoring our fallen in Colorado at the IAFF Fallen Firefighter Memorial.

Requirements: Honor Guard openings are posted when vacancies are created. Members must meet minimum participation requirements. The team conducts two training meetings a month and its members volunteer to participate both on and off duty.

Activity: The Honor Guard participates in several types of events. The team performs color details at civic occasions, such as public parades, sporting events and other special community events as requested. They also perform color details at many Fire Department events such as dedications, graduations, and awards ceremonies. The Honor Guard plans, organizes, and performs at funeral and memorial services for department members. The team also assists other agencies with funeral and memorial services. Members of the Honor Guard have participated in state and national events, such as National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.

From the2009 – 2012 Labor Agreement between South King Fire and Rescue and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2024

Article 18 – Overtime

18.1 All hours worked outside the normal work schedule shall be construed overtime (time and one half).

Employees shall also be entitled to overtime compensation for off-duty time spent in attendance at meetings and training sessions as required by the EMPLOYER.

Commissioner Fossos and past Commissioner Harris paid to attend funeral

In a related revelation, the available records also show something truly incredible.

At the January 2010 service for former Chief Packer, two of our district commissioners were actually paid to ‘honor’ their dear friend and colleague.  Current commissioner James Fossos and past commissioner Jerry Harris each submitted vouchers for attending the services as ‘commissioner meetings’ and took home an extra $104 each for their trouble and grieving of former Chief Packer. Sure hope there was not a quorum at the service, that would have been a violation of the OPMA.

*Only costs mentioned here are the wages. Not revealed or calculated are the addition taxes, insurance and other benefits required to be paid by the district. Roughly, these things usually add at least fifty percent to the actual cost to the taxpayer.

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