SAN JUAN COUNTY FIRE DISTRICT 4
Lopez Island Fire and EMS Department
2228 Fisherman Bay Road
Lopez Island, WA 98261
July 3, 2020
A Message to the Lopez Island Community,
On Sunday, June 28, 2020, I was made aware by Lopez Island Fire & EMS Commissioners Becky Smith and Duane Bordvick of E-mails they received asserting a Lopez Island Firefighter/EMT displayed a hand sign in a photograph that represented white supremacy and was therefore racist. The Commissioners asked me to investigate this immediately and to report back to them and to the community the results of my investigation.
First it’s important to note that my investigation determined that this subject and issue is not new and was investigated and acted upon last year by Chief Havner shortly after the photograph was taken. That said, here is what else I found.
My investigation first determined the photograph in the E-mails was clipped from a Department group photo taken in October 2019. The group photo was intended for a newspaper article and as a retirement gift for Captain/Paramedic Tracie Red Elk. My investigation also determined that this issue was the subject of an investigation and action last year by then Chief Havner a few days after the group photo was taken. Specifically, a few others in the department noticed the hand sign in the photograph and notified Chief Havner (Chief Havner resigned on 2/29/2020.) I contacted Chief Havner who told me he met with the individual who displayed the hand sign and this individual denied any racist meaning behind his hand sign. During my investigation the individual again denied any racist meaning behind his hand sign. The individual said the hand sign was and I quote: the “Three percent sign that is something I (and most members of The Washington 3% organization) do when someone points a camera”. This photograph was taken at a Lopez Island Fire & EMS department sponsored event, on department property. I want to emphasize in the strongest possible terms that Lopez Island Fire & EMS is apolitical and we do not allow or endorse any political activity during department events, emergencies, while wearing our uniforms or on fire department property. The individual displaying this hand sign violated this policy and Chief Havner dealt with this individual at the time including the agreement that this individual digitally remove the hand sign from the photograph. My investigation determined that Chief Havner handled this issue without notifying Commissioners Becky Smith, Duane Bordvick and Jim Lett. My investigation also discovered a copy of the photograph on the individual’s personal facebook page and he immediately apologized and removed it, on or about 6/30/2020. My investigation also included interviewing the responsible individual and other members of the department.
Lopez Island Fire & EMS is an organization dedicated to the Lopez Community’s Health, Welfare and Safety and we regret the damage to our reputation and do not condone or endorse this individual’s political beliefs.
Based on this one photograph, a few individuals have attacked this person as a racist and supporter of white supremacy and forwarded those statements to our website and to the Fire District Commissioners. The individual being targeted denies these allegations and no member of Lopez Fire & EMS nor have any of the citizens we serve brought such charges or concerns against this individual, until the offending photo was posted on social media.
Lopez Island Fire & EMS is an organization dedicated to inclusiveness and we welcome all people of color, religion, gender, national origin, marital status, age, gender identity and sexual orientation. Racist and discriminatory behavior is not tolerated.
Lopez Island Fire & EMS regrets and apologizes to our community for the trauma this photo has caused our community and our reputation and we will strive to regain all of your trust. Stronger department policies are being written and training scheduled to prevent further occurrences from happening.
Jim Ghiglione, Acting Fire Chief
Becky Smith, Commissioner, Chair
Duane Bordvick, Commissioner
Phil Paige, Commissioner
SJCFD#4 Commissioners meet on the third Tuesday of every month at 4:00 P.M. at Station 41, 2228 Fisherman Bay Rd. Meeting agendas state the time and location of each meeting.
Becky Smith, Chair
Becky is currently the Manager/Administrator at the Hamlet House Adult Family Home. She is a WSU undergraduate and an RN from the Merritt Hospital School of Nursing. Being heavily involved in our community she has served on numerous boards including the School Board, CWMA, Chamber of Commerce and the Lopez Museum. Becky grew up in the NW and has lived on Lopez with her family since 1984. She raised 2 children here and worked in various nursing capacities over the years including Visiting Nurse, Hospice and AIDS/Sexual Education in the school. Her husband was the General Manager for Decatur NW and commuted to Decatur Island for 35 years. Becky first became involved with the Fire Dept. when she took the EMT course in 1985. She was asked to fill a vacancy on the Board in 2001 and has remained a Commissioner ever since. Becky quotes: "I have been honored to work with employees and volunteers over the years to evolve into the professional department we are today."
After earning his degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington, Duane began his career as a Research Engineer for Chevron specializing in reducing automotive environmental impacts. From there he spent 12 years in public service as Director of Air Programs specializing in reducing pollution from Southern California industrial facilities. His last years of professional experience was an Executive with a Fortune 100 Petroleum Company (Tosco Corp) serving as Senior VP for Environment, Health & Safety.
Phil was born in Seattle and was hired by Woodinville Fire and Rescue as a Firefighter EMT in 1980. After 24 years with Woodinville, he moved on to jobs as Deputy Fire Chief in Vista and Redding, California, and finally retired as the Fire Chief in Newport Oregon. He earned degrees in Fire Science, Business Administration, a Masters of Public Administration and completed the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program.
He and his wife, Kelly, had been coming to Lopez for decades, and finally moved to Lopez Island full time in 2014. After moving to Lopez, Phil "started over" by signing up as a volunteer firefighter and attended the recruit academy again. He was appointed to fill a vacant commissioner position in early 2020. He has four grown kids (including a son who is a Bellingham firefighter) and nine grandkids with two more on the way.