Is it possible to draw a comparison between the financially cash strapped fire district and the state ferries?

When it comes to certain employees pay, YES!

Do you recall the excellent expose by Susannah Frame from KING 5 news where she brought to light that several Washington State Ferries employees were getting paid from the time they left home until they returned home? Some even getting overtime for it.

The headline on this story says a lot and the details expose thousand of wasted tax dollars:

Cash Strapped – But Two Commissioners Milk Every Dime


The connections are that both SKF&R and Washington State Ferries are public entities, both publicly declare being cash-strapped and both have employees that think they deserve your tax money for the time it takes to drive to and from work.

Two of the five elected fire commissioners appear to be milking the policy by getting paid mileage to go to regular and special meetings, within the district. And all of the meetings are right at the local fire department buildings, in fact.

While a normal person would not even think about charging their employer mileage to go to and from work, Commissioner James Fossos and Commissioner John Rickert extract every dime possible.

From the time they leave home, each of these elected officials must check the odometer on their cars, record the total travel to and from “work”, then submits a Form 178 Reimbursement form to collect mileage. Whether it be a regular meeting, special meeting or just to chat with the chief over lunch, you get charged $0.51 for every mile they travel.

Commissioners keep rejecting restraint in Guidelines

From the current version of the Commissioners Guidelines, there is a section on personal vehicles that reads in part “Expenses shall be reimbursed for travel within a 300 mile radius of the district…”


That means the mileage allowance starts at the district boundaries and ends 300 miles away.

Inside the district, no mileage allowed.


These two commissioners think it means from their living room to the fire station. And they are charging the tax payers for every dime possible.


Going to Seattle for the King County Fire Commissioner meeting? Get mileage.
Going to eastern Washington to the annual state commissioners meeting? Yes, you get mileage. In other words, this means that from the moment you leave the district, and for a distance up to 300 miles, you can get reimbursed for mileage.

What it does not mean is that you get paid for driving within your district.
The sentence was meant to allow for exceptional travel expenses, not normal day-to-day expenses.
Suggested changes from the Policy Committee for the past few years have fallen on deaf ears. Adding language that identifies intra-district travel as an expected condition of attendance at board meeting has been repeatedly rejected.

Indeed, this year the most fiscally responsible commissioner was summarily fired from the Policy Committee. Obviously Chairman Gates tired of his attempts to rein in wasting public tax dollars.


The Two ‘Honorable’ Commissioners Always Take The Max

Two tax dollar conscious and responsible elected officials think that means every time they go to a regular meeting or event, you will pay for their travel.

Commissioner Fosso even made sure to charge you $104, (plus mileage, of course) for the meetings he attended at the local fire station for working on the 60th Anniversary Yearbook.

(Even though the district was advised by legal counsel that the yearbook served no public purpose and therefore could not be paid for with tax dollars, and that the yearbook had to be ‘budget neutral’.)

Read the minutes of the board meetings to see how proud Commissioner Fossos is of the department and how meaningful and honorable serving on the Yearbook Committee is for him.

Set the pride aside, though. Apparently Commissioner Fossos just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to get paid for his proud and honorable ‘public service’ for a committee that is not even mentioned in the official Guidelines. (Department Annual (Yearbook) Committee) .

FireFighters Take Wage Freeze, But Not These Two Commissioners

Just because the district is suffering from millions is revenue reduction, is making millions of dollars in cutbacks, eying the possibility of reducing services and accepting wage concessions from the IAFF 2024 firefighters, will not deter Commissioners Fossos and Rickert who will continue to take every dime they think is deserved rather than interpret the language as intended. There will be no cutting back in their paycheck!




Right out of the Commissioner Guidelines as revised for January 22, 2011  is this

16.7                 TRAVEL

Reimbursement for reasonable costs of business travel is authorized. General guidelines are as follows.

(1)        DEPARTMENT

Out-of-the-area costs of vehicle operation are authorized, such as gas, oil, tires and necessary repairs.


Expenses shall be reimbursed for travel within a 300 mile radius of the district at such rate per mile as shall be established in the adopted Departmental reimbursement schedule.  Trips beyond this limit will be reimbursed at the lower of a) the established rate per mile, or b) the lowest available (other than non-refundable) airfare obtainable by the Fire Chief/Administrator and/or his/her designee plus mileage reimbursement at the then current Department rate, based upon the estimated distance between the airport and the destination.  Incidental travel costs such as parking, ferry or bridge tolls are reimbursable as they would be if a Department vehicle was provided.

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