Ocean Shores Fire Chief David Bathke “consistently challenged” the city’s union contract with its firefighters and created several grievance situations in his first year, according to one of several documents released last week under a public disclosure request.
“Our Local (IAFF 2109) has proven to be a good working partner with the city over the last decade and more, and with Bathke in office there was an unfavorable tension between the union, the chief, and eventually the city,” said a memo to Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler from Local president Cory Kuhl of the Fire Department.
Kuhl’s Jan. 7 memo is the first public disclosure of the reasons behind the union’s unanimous no-confidence vote in Bathke, which led to an action placing him on administrative leave.
The motion to hold a no-confidence vote in Bathke came at the Local’s December general membership meeting, and all 19 present supported it. According to Kuhl’s memo, there were several “reasons for the members’ overwhelming lack of no confidence in Chief Bathke.”
Although the document does not include the specific reasons, Kuhl adds in the opening memo to the mayor: “This represents significant disapproval, which is very troubling.”
Reached via email by the North Coast News for a response to the ongoing dispute, Bathke wrote:
“Due to the potential of future litigation against the city, I have been advised by my attorney to not comment at this time. We will be more than happy to release a statement on the facts when the time is appropriate.”
The documents released by the city show how several firefighters were interviewed as the city hired an outside investigator to look into the concerns, and they also include issues Bathke had in his previous position as fire chief of Hellsgate Fire Department in Arizona. Another document appears to be a separation agreement and a proposed letter of resignation. In a document dated Jan. 16 to Bathke, Dingler states: “Following the no-confidence vote of the union, I spoke with several members of the union and ultimately made the decision to retain an outside investigator to conduct an objective review and investigation into the climate and work atmosphere at the Fire Department.”
The mayor cites two other disputes: “What has become clear to me is that you have lost the trust and respect of the members of your department. Without that, I do not see a path forward for you to continue in your role as Fire Chief.”
The memo offers Bathke four months of salary as severance pay and contains an unsigned resignation letter.
that he declined to sign. As a result, the documents show Bathke has been on unpaid leave since Feb. 8.
“I am sorry this has not worked out for everyone and would like to do our best to ensure your reputation and the interests of the City are protected,” Dingler concludes.