Mutiny at the Firehouse, Part 3: The Mutineers and the Mayor

On Dec. 10, 2018 (corrected) firefighters met with their boss’s boss. They wanted Mayor Crystal Dingler to give then-Fire Chief David Bathke the heave-ho. According to “Bathke v. Ocean Shores, COURT’S DECISION, FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW by Judge Benjamin H. Settle,” in which the judge ordered Ocean Shores to pay Bathke more than $730,000, everything seemed to be just fine and dandy in the year-plus after Dingler hired Bathke.

According to the judge’s findings of fact, “Bathke began his employment in the position of fire chief for the City on June 12, 2017 after approximately one month of consulting work with the City. He maintained a probationary employee status for his first six months. Bathke’s probation ended, and Dingler sent him a letter confirming his permanent status as fire chief on November 12, 2017, in which Dingler said, “I am impressed with your leadership skills and style and look forward to a long career for you here in Ocean Shores.”

So the mayor may have been taken aback by the firefighters’ demands to give Bathke a bath: “It was not until December 13, 2018 when Dingler met with members of the firefighters’ union that any firefighter communicated a complaint about Bathke’s performance as fire chief to Dingler, Bathke’s supervisor.”

The mayor-mutineers meeting came three days after the firefighters’ union met and gave a “no-confidence” vote on Bathke’s leadership, according to the judge. “On December 13, 2018, the union members presented Dingler and Human Resource Specialist Dani Smith (“Smith”) a list of complaints that had first surfaced at a firefighters’ union meeting three days earlier; the complaints were summarized in meeting notes taken by Smith.”

That meeting apparently was enough to kick Dingler into action: “On the day following her meeting with the firefighters, December 14, 2018, Dingler apparently accepted these complaints at face value—without seeking any response or information from Bathke or conducting an independent inquiry—and placed him on administrative leave with pay. On February 8, 2019, Bathke’s status was changed to unpaid administrative leave.”

Were the firefighters so terrified of bully Bathke that they didn’t complain to him directly? “It is significant that the fire department leadership, consisting of the chief, captains, and lieutenants, met monthly to discuss current issues and problems within the department,” the judge wrote. “Minutes were taken of these meetings, and none of the complaints that were later detailed by certain firefighters at the no confidence vote were documented at the monthly meetings; the reason for which is that they were not likely raised, as Bathke contends.”

The judge red-flagged the whole process, and Dingler’s (lack of?) oversight: “Though there are provisions in City policies for the making and processing of complaints or grievances, not one of the complaints communicated to Dingler by the firefighters were ever made or pursued in accordance with these policies. Additionally, though a provision in the PM, ¶ 5.410(c), provided that every employee was to be evaluated at least once a year, Dingler, as Bathke’s supervisor, never performed such an evaluation. Bathke had no reason to suspect that his job performance was in any way viewed by members of the department or Dingler as deficient.”

Another bomb was about to drop: “At Dingler’s request, Firefighter and Local 2109 President Corey Kuhl sent Dingler an email on January 7, 2019 laying out the list of complaints the union had identified in connection with Bathke’s performance as fire chief.”

Next: “The Maple Valley Letter”

1 Comment

  1. Gynene says:

    We are the Peanut Gallery, according to the Mayor

    Liked by 1 person

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