Is South King Fire & Rescue really managing your tax dollars properly?

Does paying travel and accommodation costs for sending about 12 people to Colorado to attend an annual IAFF union sponsored event constitute good use of public tax dollars?

In the media leading up to the vote on Proposition 1, voices of concern about the potential tax increase were dismissed. People wrote that we were mis-informing the public (only facts available from SKF&R were ever presented) and that the department has “always acted with great integrity” as prudent guardians and stewards of your tax dollars.

Well, let’s look at one example that I became aware of on September 16th.

During the September 16th Board of Commissioners meeting, which I attended, Commissioner Fossos spoke for a few minutes about a recent event that he attended which took place in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Comm Fossos mentioned that he was honored to have been at the event and that the SKF&R Honor Guard did a commendable job. I believe he motioned that the flag that was presented at the event was on display at the front of the room.

I made a note to check into this trip, idly wondering if Comm Fossos paid for his own travel or if the district paid. What I discovered raises serious questions and what I believe to be a mis-appropriation of public money. And the public trust in those commissioners that allowed this expenditure to occur.

Read what I found out and tell what you think.

The Back Story

On October 31, 2006, a SKF&R employee, Fire Fighter John Waller, died from work related injuries.

Apparently it took the International Association of Fire Fighters AFL-CIO over three years to decide to add his name to Wall of Honor on the Fallen Firefighters Memorial, which was established 24 years ago by the IAFF in Colorado Springs. This memorial to our local fire fighter would take place at the annual IAFF event in September of this year.

Some time prior to the 2010 event, the SKR&R overseers of your tax dollars decided it was in the interest of the public to pay travel and accommodations for about twelve people to attend (maybe even wages?) out your public safety taxes.

Research

I have read the minutes of every Board of Commissioner meeting for the past year, and there is not one word in any meeting prior to this event that the department intended to take your tax money and send about 12 people to Colorado.

Since the Commissioners meetings are the only time the public can see and comment on formal activities the board is considering, one must conclude the expenditures were not openly discussed.

The problem is that this decision seems to have been made with absolutely NO PUBLIC OVERSIGHT! Making decisions like this behind close doors is not acting with great integrity.

Furthermore, I understand that two of the district commissioners joined the group on their travels, again, until shown otherwise, AT TAXPAYERS EXPENSE.

Public Records Request

On September 17th I submitted a Public Records Request by email to SKF&R Chief Allen Church.

To determine the legitimacy of these expenses and if the district paid for other than employees to travel, I requested among other details, how much, who traveled and what part of the budget were these funds charged to.

I am awaiting most of that information but the response that I received seems to confirm that, in light of the other request I made at the same time, indeed, yes, the department paid for the travel expenses.

My request stated that I was concerned that, in light of the tough economic situation the district is in, that public tax dollars were being used to send such a large group of people to a union organized event in Colorado.

When I questioned the use of spending tax dollars for this type of excursion, it apparently upset Chief Church. Not only did he completely miss the point of my inquiry, it seems that the very act of asking the question prompted him to accuse me of disrespecting the honor of a fallen fire fighter, which I adamantly did not do!

What I do oppose is collecting mandatory taxpayer money, which in this case is only legally intended for Fire and Safety protection and, without public input or knowledge, spending it on travel for several people, some of whom may not be members of the department.

No place in my research could I find evidence of a fund to raise money for these travel expenses. Of course, I wasn’t expecting to since the mentality seemed to be that the taxpayer would cover it, so why look elsewhere?

Integrity issue

It is Not Yours To Give.

Tax dollars are collected by force (try not paying them if you think otherwise) and for specific purposes.

Almost four years have passed since FF Waller died.

I am sure that many members of the fire department were aware of, and apparently concerned and grieved by, his death. Yet not one person saw it appropriate to put an announcement in the Federal Way Mirror to honor him. No articles of attribute to his service were published. Nor can I find any mention of his sacrifice on any of the fire districts publications or websites.

And yet, knowing that one day FF John Waller would be honored on the Fallen Fire Fighters Memorial in Colorado Springs, I find no evidence that even one person started a fund to send grieving members to honor him. Even the local IAFF 2024 union website remains silent on this firefighters life and passing, with no mention of the person or the memorial event.

It would be no stretch to conclude that the union did not pay for any member to join in this trip.

Instead, we see our cash strapped fire district (volunteering to pay?, or) being asked for, and granting, several thousands of dollars to send almost a dozen representatives down to Colorado for a several day event to honor this man.

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For a surprisingly clear comparison between history and the issue presented here, please click on this link to read a story from the life of Davy Crockett which helps explain the difference between taxes and charity.

It starts out:

One day in the House of Representatives a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support. The Speaker was just about to put the question when Crockett arose:

“Mr. Speaker–I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him.

“Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.”

He took his seat. Nobody replied. The bill was put upon its passage, and, instead of passing unanimously, as was generally supposed, and as, no doubt, it would, but for that speech, it received but few votes, and, of course, was lost.

While Chief Church would so readily cast aspersions to the contrary, I do not dis-respect the memory and honor of a fallen fire fighter. Rather I  only question whether using public safety tax dollars is appropriate and paying to send about 12 people to a union function is proper.

Davy Crockett

http://www.juntosociety.com/patriotism/inytg.html

http://www.iaff.org/

http://www.iaff.org/hs/ffm/wall/index.aspx

What do you think?

One Response to “Is South King Fire & Rescue really managing your tax dollars properly?”
  1. Chuck Brezina says:

    One way to view it???! It is THE ONLY way to view it!!

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