Citizens criticize fire district minutes protocol


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Chris Fitzgerald, KP News

Citizen participants at Pierce County Fire District 16 Board of Commissioners meetings have been consistently requesting minutes to be an all-inclusive record of proceedings. At the most recent meeting on Aug. 14, that request again fell on deaf ears, as did a repeated call to dismiss Pierce County sheriff’s deputies (on duty and on payroll) still in attendance at commission meetings.

Audience member Mike Abernathy asked the board, “How long is the district going to be held hostage by Commissioner (Jim) Bosch’s paranoia?” Bosch replied he needed the officers for his safety, and that other fire district personnel had also asked that law enforcement remain.

Also speaking from the audience, Mike Salatino, who stated he read five years’ worth of commission meeting minutes, referred to documents available online at “I was shocked to not find one word of any of the mishaps, discussions, disagreements... (or events surrounding the altercation between Bosch and Commissioner Allan Yanity) …or comments as to how the public relates to the department,” he said. “(This is) a disservice — the public doesn’t trust you.”

At an August breakfast organized by the firefighters association in support of a levy (which has subsequently failed), Commissioner Allen Yanity is seen protesting the levy, right next to signs promoting his recall. Photo by Hugh McMillan

Yanity has also long disputed the accuracy of the minutes, frequently voting against their approval. He has been recording the meetings from his seat at the commission table for some time. In a recent email to the KP News, he wrote, “The minutes of the fire commissioner meetings have been twisted and falsified to benefit others so much, I believe it is criminal and I have proof they are false… There is so much going on behind the scenes when it is all made public… the citizens will be amazed!”

Most recently at question are the whereabouts of his recording of the July 10 meeting, a recording he allegedly agreed to produce and which, according to Bosch, may or may not clarify items discussed at that meeting. (The minutes of the July meeting are not posted on the district Website, and the importance of the tape, or a subsequent request to produce it, have not been verified.) Yanity contends the minutes are his personal property and has not produced the tape, apparently acting on the advice of his attorney.

Bosch says he is concerned the recording has been tampered with while in Yanity’s possession.

“People have a right to accurate minutes, not the Yanitized version,” Bosch said.

The audience has frequently chastised the commissioners as well. Abernathy told the board, “I can’t believe this commission had the audacity to vote itself a raise. This is ridiculous — and this includes you also, Mr. Bosch. You, Jim Bosch, start the fights.”

Consistent with his response to audience comment when directed specifically toward him, Bosch suggested that Abernathy’s statement was prompted by his friendship with Yanity. Minutes later, Bosch asked Christina Bosch, administrative manager and meeting secretary, to read his subsequent comments back to him. Her reply, “I was hoping to get it from you later (after the meeting),” prompted this retort from Abernathy, “Apparently, Bosch controls the minutes.”

In a comparison by the KP News of meeting minutes protocol of the Key Peninsula Metro Parks District, the Key Peninsula Community Council, several local fire districts, and the Pierce County Council, it appears the accuracy of meeting minutes is of utmost importance. KPMPD Secretary Kip Clinton identifies all audience members present, and enters their comments into the minutes, which are posted on the district Website. Occasionally, KPMPD records or videotapes its meetings. KPCC audience participants sign a guest list; their comments are written in the organization’s minutes, which are then distributed to directors and audience members at the next meeting. County council meetings require audience participants to sign-in, as well as identify themselves before a microphone. Every meeting is videotaped and archived for viewing on the council’s Website.

In response to a request for meeting minutes protocol made by the KP News, four area fire district administrations separately confirmed that during their commission meetings, audience members must identify themselves prior to speaking; their comments are reported in the minutes. In one district, recordings are made of the minutes, and a written synopsis is distributed, with the entire proceedings available for listening. Administrative personnel surveyed seemed puzzled by the request to describe how audience comments were received during commission meetings; every respondent’s answer was clear — comments must be recorded for benefit of both the commissioners and the public.

Minutes of the Fire District 16 merely acknowledge the speaker: “Don Tjossem addressed the Board. Mike Abernathy addressed the Board. Mike Hays addressed the Board...” No indication of comment content is given.

Citizen complaints at nearly every meeting since the commissioners changed minutes protocol several months ago, and requests to make the minutes all-inclusive, appear to be “off the agenda” for the commission. This is particularly puzzling to the citizens, as the vision statement of Key Peninsula Fire District 16 reads in part, “We are committed to timely and effective communication...”