After intense public testimony calling for the two to resign Tuesday night, the Snohomish County Fire District 1 board voted to issue a written reprimand against David Chan and Bob Meador for making insensitive remarks about Mexican laborers at a March 7 meeting.
Under growing public pressure, Snohomish County Fire District 1 commissioners voted Tuesday night to issue a written reprimand against two of their own caught on tape making jokes about hiring “cheaper” Mexican laborers for a paramedic position.
The reprimand characterizes their speech as reprehensible, unprofessional and denigrating members of the community.
Though the pair, Bob Meador and David Chan, publicly apologized, they resisted citizens’ calls for their resignation, with Chan saying he would leave that to voters in November. The two insisted their remarks during a break in a public meeting earlier in the month were meant as jokes between old friends.
Before Tuesday night’s vote, citizens testified for about an hour during the public-comment period at a regular district board meeting in Everett.
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Among those who testified was Jimmy Matta of Latino Civic Alliance. He said firefighters keep the public safe, regardless of national origin.
Shawnti Johnson, meanwhile, held a sign with photos of Chan and Meador that urged them to resign. “THESE are the ones who ‘can’t do the job’! #NoExcuses,” the sign read. “Resign … We must love each other and protect each other!”
District 1 firefighter Moi Castellon, a Mexican American and a military veteran, testified he was embarrassed by the pair’s racial remarks and urged them to resign.
“Not only are you insulting me as an employee of Fire District 1, you’re insulting the entire Latino community,” he said.
The commissioners’ racial remarks came during the March 7 meeting of the fire district, which serves Edmonds, Brier, Mountlake Terrace and unincorporated areas south of Everett.
The commissioners were responding to a presentation by the district’s human-resources director over challenges in recruiting and hiring. Chan, an accountant and business consultant, and Meador, a former Lynnwood fire chief, are heard talking during a break in the public meeting.
Chan, the only racial minority on the commission, asks, “Could we hire a Mexican paramedic?” He then jokes, “It’s cheaper.”
Meador says, “I don’t wanna. I don’t want those immigrants. They can’t do the job.”
Chan repeats, “It’s cheaper.”
Members of the district’s firefighters union called for Meador and Chan to resign at a special hearing last Friday night. Both men apologized for the comments at that hearing.
But an attempt to impose disciplinary action failed on a 2-2 tie vote. One member of the five-member board was absent, and Chan and Meador voted not to discipline each other, while Chairman Jim McGaughey and Commissioner Jim Kenny voted for it.
After public testimony on Tuesday night, the chairman suggested another vote. Kenny was absent this time; all four remaining commissioners voted for the written reprimand.
Earlier in the evening, Everett resident Christina Contreras questioned the ethics of Chan and Meador being allowed to vote against their own reprimand on Friday.
The district’s attorney Rich Davis said in an earlier interview that the commissioners make their own rules and don’t have a rule barring them from voting on their own discipline.