EMS levy passes despite reprimands within department


Marsha Hart, KP News

Levy supporters wave signs across the street from the polling station in Key Center on election day to sway voters to vote yes on the EMS levy. Photo: Hugh McMillan, KP News

The voter turnout for Pierce County is reported at 30.82 percent, and Key Peninsula voters spoke loud and clear on the EMS levy ballot. The levy, which will continue a tax that is already in place to support emergency medical services on the Key Peninsula, was passing with 81 percent of the votes in favor as of press time.

“When I first saw the return I was humbled by the percentages," said Chief Tom Lique. "With all the issues going on the voters are approving the EMS levy with plus 80 percent in the Department's favor."

An organization called H.E.L.P. that was in favor of the levy staged a large campaign, complete with mailings and many members waving signs at strategic points on the Key Peninsula.

With recent news surrounding some members of FD 16, Lique admits he was worried that voters could lose trust and the levy could fail.

Lique, with the support of the board of commissioners, just handed down reprimands for two volunteers and two career firefighters. Tim Nelson, a 20-year-old volunteer was terminated, office manager Christina Bosch was given a written reprimand, Mike Riegle was demoted from battalion chief to firefighter-paramedic, and Doug Gelsleichter was  demoted from volunteer lieutenant to volunteer firefighter. The decision has not yet been made for Robert Bosch, and an investigation is continuing.

In July, Lique heard some rumors surrounding events at a conference and asked the department’s attorney Joe Quinn to investigate, he said.

In June, Nelson and three FD 16 employees attended a conference in Wenatchee. Nelson, Riegle, Bosch, and Gelsleichter were in the lounge of the hotel. Christina Bosch, the office manager, joined them for dinner. She was not there to attend the conference.

Nelson became intoxicated and when he returned to his room, ended up flooding the bathroom. People below the room reported water dripping from the ceiling.

All of the FD 16 members knew of the incident, Lique said.

“They knew the room had gotten flooded, but they still chose to come back and not tell anybody,” he said.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. The investigation began July 19, and by July 30 Lique received the findings. He said he spent the weekend reviewing the report and decided to move forward with the hearing, though it would mean negative press just prior to Election Day.

“Relatively speaking it went pretty quick,” he said.

Lique said it would have been easy to put off the decision until after the election, but he didn’t want to do that. He said it was important to make the decision quickly, even if it meant losing the levy.

“That was definitely a concern of mine,” he said. “My goal was to not give any presentation like I was trying to delay it or schedule it around the election. I walked into it knowing that if the levy fails, in part it could be because of my decision to process through this investigation. I re alized it could fail, and expected it to be a negative impact.”

Instead, Lique said he is still trying to grasp the 80 percent vote.

“The voters were able to put it all aside and save the ambulance in an overwhelming majority,” he said. “I think 80 percent is the best in the state in this election, and it’s pushing a record. The voters want the ambulance.”