Two fire commissioners Friday night apologized for making racially insensitive comments about Mexicans, but the Snohomish Fire District 1 Commission tied 2-2 over disciplinary action.
Two Snohomish County fire commissioners apologized Friday night for making racially insensitive comments when they joked about hiring “cheaper” Mexican laborers for a paramedic position.
But an attempt to impose disciplinary action failed on a 2-2 tie vote by the commissioners for Fire District 1.
Commissioner Jim Kenny asked that the two board members, David Chan and Bob Meador, receive a written reprimand. He also proposed that they each write an apology, take a course on diversity and communications and consider resignation. He was joined by Commission Chairman Jim McGaughey.
But Chan and Meador voted against disciplining themselves, and one commissioner, Richard Schrock, was absent from the special meeting of the five-member board and the resolution did not pass.
McGaughey said he did not plan to reintroduce it on Tuesday, when the full board meets again.
Chan broke down crying as he described his own experience as a Chinese-American immigrant and noted that he was one of the few Asian fire commissioners in the region. But he said the resolution calling for discipline was written before the meeting and before he and Meador had a chance to explain their comments.
“I’ve been a commissioner for 12 years. I’m being judged by these few sentences,” Chan said. “Our president has said a lot worse.”
He said that he and Meador are from opposing political parties, and that they often “do a lot of mocking” of each other.
The racial remarks came during the March 7 commission 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 in the background.
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 Friday’s special meeting. Firefighter Alex “A.J” Johnson said earlier in the day that the comments were brought to the union’s attention Wednesday. They then met with McGaughey, the fire chief, Brad Reading, and the human-resources director, Bill Kolden on Thursday.
“They had the same response that we had. They were appalled,” said Johnson, treasurer of Firefighters Local 1828.
Meador said he had a lengthy history in fire service, and that he had a Mexican son-in-law and five Hispanic grandchildren.
“I am not anti-Mexican. That’s not me,” he said. He objected to the board voting just a day after he and Chan were notified of the controversy.
Kenny, an attorney, said it was important for the board to take some disciplinary action against Chan and Meador.
“We provide service to a broad and diverse community. On behalf of the district, we have to say this is inappropriate,” Kenny said.