Replacing ousted Quilcene fire commissioners put on fast track

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

QUILCENE — Jefferson County staff has put into place an accelerated schedule to fill vacancies resulting from the recall of two Quilcene Fire District commissioners that voters approved last Tuesday.

Dave Ward and Mike Whittaker were turned out of office during the election, which ended a controversy about alleged meeting-minute falsification.

The result was the removal of two-thirds of the three-member commission.

An accelerated schedule for filling the positions is needed because the district commission can’t approve a 2013 budget without a quorum.

Voters cast 483 votes, or 60.75 percent, in favor of Ward’s recall, with 312 votes, or 39.25 percent, opposed.

In Whittaker’s case, 479 votes, or 59.95 percent, were cast in favor of recalling him, and 320 votes, or 40.05 percent, were opposed.

Ward and Whittaker will no longer be fire commissioners after the election is certified Nov. 27.

No meetings are scheduled prior to that time, although a budget workshop had been set for that evening, with another meeting set the next day for consideration of budget approval.

At a special meeting Friday, the fire district commissioners appointed Herb Beck, the only remaining commissioner, as chairman and to set a budget workshop for Dec. 19 and a final budget meeting on Dec. 27.



When two vacancies occur on a nonpartisan three-person board, the county commissioners fill one with an appointment, while the second vacancy is then filled by the two district commissioners.

By law, this must be accomplished within 90 days, but the budget issues have caused the county to take a fast track, according to County Administrator Philip Morley.

Should the fire commissioners fail to set a levy rate, they would not receive any tax money for the year in question, according to Assessor Jack Westerman.

The budget in 2012 was $319,250.

In most cases, a vacancy is not advertised until the election is certified but because of the need to fill the vacancies, an advertisement will be posted Wednesday.

It calls for those interested in the position to apply in person, by mail or email by 4:30 p.m. Nov. 28 to 1820 Jefferson St., Box 1220 Port Townsend WA 98368 or to jeffbocc@co.jefferson.wa.us.

The county commissioners will interview some or all of the applicants at 11:30 a.m. Dec. 3 in commission chambers.

County Commissioner David Sullivan said it has not been decided whether the interviews will be open to the public.

Beck was elected to the Quilcene Fire District commission in November 2011 after defeating an incumbent commissioner, Debbie Randall.

On Friday, Randall said that she is interested in running for one of the seats.

Quilcene Fire commissioners serve six-year terms.

Ward, who was last elected in 2007 was up for re-election in 2013, while Whittaker, elected in 2009, was up in 2015.

Whoever the newly appointed commissioners are, should they choose to run, they would face voters in 2013 — one for a full six-year term and the other to fill the remaining two years of the current term.

Remaining ballots in the all-mail recall election will be counted Wednesday. They are not expected to change the results.

Allegations of improper conduct stemmed from the board’s creation of an $800-a-month job for Ward in January 2010.

Ward was paid to retrieve and decipher district data from outdated computer disks.

At issue in the recall was whether Ward, with Whittaker’s complicity, asked Department Secretary Jean Morris to modify the February 2010 minutes to approve Ward’s enrollment in the Public Employees Retirement System to qualify him for a pension.

Recall proponents filed the original paperwork August 2011.

The next Quilcene Fire District commission meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 10 at the fire station, 70 Herbert St.



Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 18. 2012 6:12PM
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