OS Fire Chief placed on leave after no-confidence vote

Ocean Shores Fire Chief David Bathke has been placed on administrative leave pending an outside review after a unanimous no-confidence vote was taken by the local firefighter/paramedics under his supervision.

Bathke has not been present at City Council meetings this year and has been absent since an incident at the Fire Department in early January in which the chief reportedly was involved in an altercation that preceded the no-confidence vote, sources told the North Coast News.

A city document describing the hiring of an outside consulting investigator, Robin Nielsen, outlines some of the details:

“The City wishes to retain the services of Ms. Nielsen to conduct an investigation into complaints and/or concerns culminating in a “no confidence” vote by members of the Fire Department union, Local 2109 of the International Association of Firefighters. Upon the mutual agreement of Ms. Nielsen and the City, the scope of this investigation may be expanded depending on information learned during the course of this investigation which would warrant further inquiry.”

Mayor Crystal Dingler on Friday confirmed the process is ongoing, and that Bathke was placed on administrative leave since Dec. 14 “so that we could investigate concerns that members of the department had brought to light concerning Chief Bathke’s management and leadership of the department.”

Capt. Mike Thurier has been serving as the acting chief, Dingler said.

“We are scheduled to meet with Chief Bathke on March 12 to address these issues, and I will make a decision after this meeting as to the direction and future leadership of the department. Until that time, I believe it would be improper to comment further on this matter,” Dingler said.

Bathke was hired after the abrupt departure last year of former Ocean Shores Fire Chief Tom Lique, who was hired in June 2014 but resigned after he was first placed on administrative leave due to a lengthy medical absence. Bathke took over a department that had several priority concerns, most specifically with staffing levels and equipping seven new positions added to the department as he started his position.

Bathke most recently was involved in securing a grant and putting together a bid package for a new city fire engine.

Bathke started his career as a Fire Explorer in Wisconsin, and had more than 40 years of experience in Wisconsin and Arizona before being hired as the Ocean Shores chief in June 2017.

Prior to that, Bathke spent 4½ years as Battalion Chief and Fire Chief of the Hellsgate Fire District in Star Valley, AZ, and a Regional Director for the Arizona Fire Chiefs Association.

His annual salary was $100,527 when hired, and the city reportedly offered him a buyout option on his contract during the current leave and review of his actions. Bathke could not be reached for comment by phone or email.