Wash. firefighter, mayor candidate reprimanded for conducting campaign activities on duty

Shawn Poole was reprimanded by the city last fall for using images of city property in campaign materials, posting information he learned through his work as a firefighter online and campaigning while on duty


Rebecca White
The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.

Spokane firefighter and mayoral candidate Shawn Poole was reprimanded by the city last fall for using images of city property in campaign materials, posting information he learned through his work as a firefighter online and campaigning while on duty.

The reprimand stemmed from two anonymous complaints sent to the fire department last year accusing Poole of using his Facebook account to post about his campaign during work hours. Poole, one of eight candidates in the race for mayor, called the complaints nebulous and said City Council President Ben Stuckart, who is the only other candidate affiliated with the city, had done the same thing.

Spokane firefighter and mayoral candidate Shawn Poole has since edited or deleted the photos and posts referenced in the complaints and said he hasn’t engaged in any campaign activities while at work since he was reprimanded. He said he also hasn’t been in uniform since Jan. 1 due to a firefighting injury. (Photo/Spokane Fire Department Facebook)
Spokane firefighter and mayoral candidate Shawn Poole has since edited or deleted the photos and posts referenced in the complaints and said he hasn’t engaged in any campaign activities while at work since he was reprimanded. He said he also hasn’t been in uniform since Jan. 1 due to a firefighting injury. (Photo/Spokane Fire Department Facebook)

“It’s apparently not a level playing field across the board,” he said.

Poole, who has worked for the fire department for 27 years and retired from the Army as a colonel in 2017, was one of the early conservative-leaning candidates to enter the race. He has been endorsed by conservative lawmakers Jenny Graham and Jeff Holy and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

Poole has since edited or deleted the photos and posts referenced in the complaints and said he hasn’t engaged in any campaign activities while at work since he was reprimanded. He said he also hasn’t been in uniform since Jan. 1 due to a firefighting injury.

According to documents obtained through a public record request, Poole posted about homelessness, the mayor’s race and Ben Stuckart while on duty and updated his Facebook page’s cover photo with his campaign business card. On his Facebook, he listed himself as a Spokane firefighter and was wearing a firefighter uniform and standing in front of a firetruck in his profile photo.

One Facebook post read: “10 responses to the House of Charity since 8AM yesterday morning and there’s still 17 hours left in the shift. 10 responses X 2 fire trucks per response =………you can do the math!”

He also posted about Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich not running for mayor and thanked a supporter for endorsing him on Facebook.

City employees are not allowed to participate in campaign activities or advocate for political issues while they are at work, according to the city’s civil service rules.

According to the reprimand letter, Poole was ordered to stop using city property in campaign images, stop posting information he learned at work on Facebook and stop using social media for campaign issues while on duty.

Poole said the information he posted is publicly available because anyone with access to the the app Pulse Point could easily track city firetrucks. Pulse Point is an app that pinpoints and categorizes active emergencies on a map.

He said the complaints were only allegations, that he didn’t violate the city’s policies and he has not posted while on duty since the reprimand.

“I took my lumps and really, if you go through the RCWS and city charter, I didn’t violate any of that in my opinion. So it didn’t drag out and didn’t cause undue stress to the fire department, City of Spokane, or myself, I decided to take a written reprimand.”

Civil Service Chief Examiner Amber Richards said Ben Stuckart doesn’t have to follow the same rules as Poole because elected officials are exempt from civil service rules.

Stuckart said he doesn’t engage in campaign activities on city property and he’s been careful to keep his campaign and council president activities separate since he ran for re-election in 2015.

The other six candidates also would not have to follow the same rules as Poole because they are not employed by the city.

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©2019 The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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