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5 Wash. firefighters face discipline after bullying investigation

Officials said disciplinary action will range from written reprimands to two firefighters being suspended for 48 hours without pay

By Jonathan Glover
The Spokane-Review

SPOKANE, Wash. — The city of Spokane will discipline five firefighters after concluding its investigation into allegations of harassment and bullying at Spokane Fire Department Station 2.

In a joint statement released Tuesday, the firefighters union and city officials said they were “committed to a workplace free from harassment, discrimination, or retaliation of any kind” and they “firmly believe in treating everyone with dignity, respect, and professionalism.”

Union President Randy Marler said the city would be disciplining five department employees. The decision comes weeks after the city conducted hearings in June.

Disciplinary action will range from written reprimands to two firefighters being suspended for 48 hours without pay, Marler said.

Marler said not all five who will receive discipline were those named in a human resources report issued April 27 following a two-month-long investigation into the fire station. The report named Battalion Chiefs Don Waller and Darin Neiwert, and Lts. Patrick Walsh and Daniel Krouse, as well as an unnamed driver with the department.

Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said through the joint statement he will “ensure the department is always working hard to improve by engaging with our community, building an inclusive culture, advancing new knowledge, and leading the way in seeking creative solutions to ever-changing challenges.”

“These responsibilities are also delegated to every employee of the Spokane Fire Department,” he said. “I have made it clear to the organization that any level of bullying, harassment, or offensive behavior will not be tolerated.”

While the investigation is officially over, Marler said, the methods and findings of the city’s handling of the original complaint brought by a probationary employee were originally under dispute by the union, but it has since accepted the results.

“I want to move, and I want my membership to move on and try to put it behind us and continue to be better to each other,” he said.

Marler said the union originally hired a third-party investigator to research the complaints, but the city refused to work with him. The investigation was quashed June 7.

The original human resources investigation was generated after an employee at Station 2, located on North Foothills Drive in the Logan neighborhood, reported bullying, crude sexual language and inappropriate behavior by the two battalion chiefs.

City employees interviewed dozens of firefighters, many of them former probationary employees, who described a hazing-type environment dating back between three and five years.

The report concluded with recommendations of staffing changes and hiring a third-party consultant to help improve the culture within the fire station.

Copyright 2018 The Spokane-Review