Fire dispatchers worry that the city is sabotaging their agency as they look to integrate

click to enlarge The computer assisted dispatch system is photographed at the Spokane Fire Depratment Combined Communications Building in Spokane. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
The computer assisted dispatch system is photographed at the Spokane Fire Depratment Combined Communications Building in Spokane.

While the Spokane City Council has been united in trying to stop, or at least slow down, the effort to integrate all the regional 911 systems into the independent Spokane Regional Emergency Communications Center (SRECC), the integration attempt has continued to move forward. The council passed a law, for example, banning city employees for working for the SRECC.

At a council meeting Monday, Kelly Masjoan, a fire dispatcher and a fire union board member, stood up to decry what she saw as an attempt by the Condon administration to sabotage the current 911 city-run fire dispatch system.

“We are down three positions in fire dispatch. We hear from City Administrator Theresa Sanders that she’s putting another hiring freeze on us,” Masjoan says. “They do not have plans to hire any more dispatchers.” She says Sanders plans to wait until the SRECC comes online — and they can do the hiring.

Not only that, Masjoan says, the fire dispatcher’s manager, Lori Markham, has accepted a job as assistant director for the SRECC. Markham will be doing both jobs, Masjoan claimed, and argues it’s effectively a conflict of interest.

“These are political chess moves, designed to dismantle our leadership,” Masjoan says. “It’s a deliberate attempt to try to kill us by attrition by not filling these positions.”

SRECC spokeswoman Kirstin Davis, however, says that she couldn’t respond to the concerns Masjoan raised — precisely because the system hadn’t been integrated yet. Those personnel moves are the domain of the city.

“We’ve been answering employees’ questions when they’re brought to our attention directly,” Davis says. “I didn’t even know about this until [the Inlander] called.”

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist says she did not have a response to the concerns raised by Masjoan, but would be updating the City Council in the next few weeks. In the past, however, Sanders, the city administrator, has explained that the city has delayed filling important roles due to the challenge of recruiting qualified candidates with no guarantee that the next mayor will retain them after the 2019 election.

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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters is the Inlander's senior investigative reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...