August 16, 2012 in Washington Voices

Housing worries drive resignation

Fire commissioner cites ‘thuggish’ letter from union as factor
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Nesbitt
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

Spokane Valley Fire commissioner Monte Nesbitt announced his resignation this week after the firefighters union raised questions about his residency.

Nesbitt, who is currently the chairman of the commission, read a statement at Monday’s commission meeting decrying a “thuggish” letter he received this month from Local 876 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. The letter stated that the union planned to challenge his voter’s registration with the Spokane County Auditor’s Office, but that no challenge would be filed if Nesbitt resigned.

Nesbitt currently lives with his wife in her home near Cheney. They were married last year. Nesbitt said after his divorce he lived in an apartment in Spokane Valley but registered to vote using his daughter’s address on East 26th Avenue in Spokane Valley. “I didn’t know where I was going to go,” he said.

He kept the apartment for a time after moving into the home near Cheney, and stayed there overnight occasionally when he attended late night meetings, Nesbitt said. The plan was to sell the home near Cheney and find a home in Spokane Valley, Nesbitt said, but the house has not sold.

Nesbitt said the department was aware of his living arrangements and he consulted with the department’s attorney on the issue. “He said it all came down to intent,” Nesbitt said.

The plan was to resign his seat if the house didn’t sell in two years and that time is up in December, Nesbitt said. He announced that he would retire effective Dec. 31. Nesbitt said he planned to make the announcement in September. “I don’t think I’m in violation of anything,” he said.

Nesbitt worked for Valley Fire for 32 years before retiring. He won his first six-year term as fire commissioner in 2003 and has four years left on his current term. Nesbitt said he’s disappointed at how it’s all ending.

“It’s been a lot of fun until the last four or five months,” he said. “I would have liked to stay there. It was never my intent to do anything wrong.”

The union first became aware that Nesbitt might not meet the residency requirements last year and did some research, said Local 876 vice-president Rich Bruce. The union brought the issue up at the commissioner’s retreat in June.

“I don’t think we think he was trying to hide anything, but we did have a concern about the legitimacy of one of our commissioners,” Bruce said.

“If he’s saying his intent is to move back into the district, then he has moved out of the district by his own admission,” said Local 876 president Don Kresse.

Bruce and Kresse said they don’t think their letter to Nesbitt was “thuggish” or threatening.

“It was our intent to ask a question and have it handled at the lowest level possible,” Bruce said. “We certainly did not want this to become public or an embarrassment. We did not intend for this to play out the way it did. ”

Kresse said he worked with Nesbitt before he retired.

“I would count Monte as a friend,” he said. “I’m not happy that it has gone this route.”

The department will accept applications from people interested in finishing Nesbitt’s term at a later date and the commissioners will appoint a replacement.

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