EVERETT, Wash. – Two members of the Snohomish County Fire District Board of Commissioners who made racially insensitive comments about Mexican laborers avoided disciplinary action by voting against the idea.
Commissioners Bob Meador and David Chan on Friday each voted no, resulting in a 2-2 tie and the action failed. One member of the five-member panel was absent.
“I’ve been a commissioner for 12 years,” Chan said. “I’m being judged by these few sentences. Our president has said a lot worse.”
At a March 7 public meeting during a break, but with microphones turned on, Chan and Meador engaged in a conversation.
“Could we hire a Mexican paramedic?” Chan said. “It’s cheaper.”
Meador said, “I don’t wanna. I don’t want those immigrants. They can’t do the job.”
To which Chan said, “It’s cheaper.”
A union for firefighters provided recordings of the remarks to news media. Union leadership said the two commissioners should resign.
Meador and Chan apologized repeatedly at the meeting on Friday.
Commissioners Jim Kenny and Jim McGaughey voted for Chan and Meador to receive a written reprimand. Commissioner Richard Schrock was absent from the special meeting.
The full board meets again on Tuesday, but McGaughey said he does not plan to reintroduce the reprimand.
Chan cried Friday describing his experiences as a Chinese American and said he was one of the few Asian fire commissioners in the region. Meador said he has a Mexican son-in-law and five Hispanic grandchildren.
“It was a joking thing,” Meador said about the exchange of comments with Chan. Chan, a Democrat, said the two are from different political parties and often mock each other.
The fire district serves the unincorporated southwest part of the county. The district also provides firefighters and paramedics to the cities of Brier, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace.
Fire Chief Brad Reading said the comments made by Meador and Chan caught by the microphone don’t reflect the district’s mission, and that the district hires from all backgrounds. “We are doing as much diversity as we can,” he said.