Scott LeVielle

by Ralph Nichols

North Highline Fire Chief Scott LeVielle announced on Monday (Dec. 21) that he will step aside, clearing the way for adoption of a reduced but balanced 2010 budget for Fire District 11.

The $4,817,185 operating budget for next year then was adopted unanimously by fire district commissioners.

LeVielle’s resignation will take effect on Feb. 28. His current annual salary is $186,362.

Burien/Normandy Park (District 2) Fire Chief Mike Marrs will become chief for both departments. Other fire chief services and training and inspection services also will be consolidated under Fire District 2.

“With that … we are in the black,” Fire Commission Chairman Ron Malispino said before approval of the budget.

“A lot of effort went into this [agreement with the fire chiefs’ and firefighters’ locals of the IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters), and with Fire District 2]. A lot of effort. We need to do it and we need to do it right away. We can’t just operate anymore.”

The departure of LeVielle, who became chief at the end of 2006, and the department’s training secretary – coupled with consolidated services with Fire District 2 – will save North Highline $581,720 in salary savings next year.

Both IAFF locals made salary and benefit concessions as part of the budget-balancing process, including reducing overtime and capping sick pay payoffs. Other cuts include the reduction of a variety of department expense items from $216,600 down to $159,220.

“It was a good collective bargaining process,” LeVielle told The B-Town Blog. “When you reach consensus, that is the best process. It does work.

“It makes sense for the two departments to work together,” he continued. “It made sense to have one chief and to cut costs, including support services, over the next two years. I needed to step down to keep the department’s budget above water.”

LeVielle’s move will save two or three North Highline firefighter positions – no firefighters currently employed by the department will be laid off.

While the consolidation agreement between the Burien/Normandy Park and North Highline departments is not a merger, “there is a lot of operational consolidation, functional consolidation, of existing operations at a higher level,” Marrs said.

“This is an important first step toward making everything work and enhance existing services. This is a big commitment by District 11 to continue its level of service.”

Marrs added that it’s “good for District 2 citizens given the large area of north Burien and the [North Highline] annexation area,” but a lot of work to implement the consolidation remains to be done.

The consolidation of administrative services will take place by the end of February. Training, inspection and other operational services are expected to be fully concluded by the end of 2011, LaVielle said.

LeVielle replaced former North Highline Fire Chief Russ Pritchard when he retired at the end of 2006. In a move that generated considerable controversy at the time, District 11 commissioners increased Pritchard’s salary from $125,664 to $198,000 for the final months of 2006 as a retirement package for him.

Under a revised retirement-compensation policy, LeVielle will receive one year’s salary plus standard buyouts for accrued vacation and sick leave.

Fire District 11 commissioners would have faced the need to reduce services without the collective-bargaining agreement and the consolidation agreement with Fire District 2.

Reduced assessed property values in North Highline, the impact of annexation of part of the North Highline area by Burien in 2010, and administrative costs all contributed to the department’s budget problems.

The B-Town Blog requested copies of the North Highline department’s detailed 2010 budget and the two separation agreements. The budget was made available late Monday afternoon and the separation agreements will be available after Dec. 31 if, under state law, the respective individuals do not file a legal objection.

Since 2007, The B-Town Blog is Burien’s multiple award-winning hyperlocal news/events website dedicated to independent journalism.

7 replies on “Scott LeVielle Resigns As North Highline Fire Chief”

  1. Interesting spin on this article, as it gives the impression that Chief LaVielle is selflessly stepping down to ensure firefighters on the street don’t lose their jobs.

    Well, part of that is true…

    It seems the Highline Times could’ve done a much more thourough article, and explained how the fire commissioners of the NHFD first gave former fire chief Russ Pritchard a HUGE bump in his salary just prior to retirement. Which by the way, helps to determine what his retirement will be. More money in your final years of employment = a much higher pension.

    Oh and by the way, guess who was one of Russ Pritchards boss’ at North Highline Fire? None other than Ron Malaspino–who happened to be the manager of Water District 20 during that time. And guess who Mr. Malaspino’s boss was Water District 20 at the time? Well none other that Water District 20 commissioner Russ Pritchard! Just a little bit of quid pro quo?

    And remember when Russ Pritchards outrageously high salary became an issue (as reported in the HT’s), Mr. Malaspino proclaimed that the next chief won’t get “nearly that much.” True. The next chief got WAY MORE!

    The leaders and administrators of North Highline Fire have exhibited a horrendous ability to properly manage the peoples money, and should be ashamed of themselves. There’s probably even grounds for a recall if the issue was pushed.

    Hopefully the departure of Scott LaVielle and the commissioners contracting with another agency will help to ensure no services are lost or decreased.

  2. Salary out of the way, the Commuinity is losing a Great Hero. Too bad. I’m sure the next Chief has nowhere near the experience and education that LaVielle has.

    1. A hero is defined as “a person noted or admired for nobility,courage,outstanding achievements,etc. ” Nati, please list any of the above qualifactions that LaVielle has achieved.

      He has done nothing but add letters to the end of his name. He has made no positive changes to the fire district and leaves the district in a financial shamble that was made worse by the financial compensation he received. He will walk away from this mess with approximately $300,000 in a severance package that allows him to collect that money while not working a day in the next year. The district employees that are left are making monetary concessions in order to prevent the loss of firefighter jobs.

      He had plenty of time to write a balanced budget but choose instead to add more letters to his name. Some hero.

      I don’t care how many letters the next chief has behind his name as long as he is a better steward of the taxpayers money.

  3. Since you bring up education, it should be noted that all of the education and accredidations that Chief LaVielle so enthusiastically flaunted, did not help out the department one iota. All those initials and acronyms after his name were simply just fluff.

    And if you’re going to compare chiefs and what they have or haven’t done, I suggest you compare both departments current financial and operation situation.

    North Highline Fire has essentially NO reserve funding, and had to take DRASTIC steps at the eleventh hour to ensure the budget was balanced. AND, all of this was done by the two unions and NOT by the chief. THEY came up with the budget that ensured firefighters would not lose their jobs. LaVielle repeatedly stated for well over a year that “we’ll be fine,” “everything will be status quo.” The truth was he didn’t have a clue and had NO PLAN to mitigate the financial impacts resulting from reduced valuation in the fire district.

    Burien Fire on the other hand, has MILLIONS in reserve funding, has better staffing (with 3-4 person engines, and always having an aid car in service), as well as planning for the replacement of their fire stations (via a successful bond measure they planned for), and have planned accordingly for the financial hit that all public entities sustained.

    Burien’s Chief may not have all the fancy initials and letters after his name, but he apparently has been good stewards of the taxpayers money and has done so in a way that gets results AND ensures financial stability.

    At the end of the day, it’s all about action and not words (or letter after your name).

  4. I was prepared to write any scathing responses to comments. I see that Insider and Guest have taken care of that for me.

    “Chief” LaVielle is a legend in his own mind. He has done nothing but brown-nose the public for many years so they would be on his side. He is a worthless chief who has done nothing to improve NHFD. In fact, he has darn near flushed it down the toilet. Promoting him was the worst thing that has happened to us. All of his medals and titles mean squat. It’s about time he was forced out of our district. Don’t be snowed because it is thought he is willingly stepping down. A united union has basically forced him out.

    Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  5. I forgot to mention something about your beloved “Chief” LaVielle.

    During the memorial if the 4 Lakewood Police officers, he fell asleep during the event in the Tacoma Dome. He was also witnessed putting a wad of chew in his mouth. Several police and fire people looked at him and just shook their heads. How much more disrespectful can one get? What an embarrassment.

  6. The true heros are North Highline’s Fire Fighters who put their lives on the line for less than one-third of the chief’s salary. That’s not all they’ve been doing for us – they deserve our thanks for speaking truth to power and helping to bring about a change that was long overdue.

    When the district administration failed to produce a 2010 budget, our fire fighters met the task head on. They knew the chief’s $186,362 salary (before benefits) was putting our safety at risk and they provided the leadership needed to deal with reality and solve the problem.

    At the November 17, 2009 commissioner’s meeting, the unions submitted a balanced budget geared to maintaining “a high level of service to the community.” It called for the removal of Chief LaVielle and the training secretary (Commissioner Alishokis’ wife) and working with District 2 to start “us on a path that will improve the level of service to both Districts.” The fire fighters didn’t stop there. In order to be sure that the people of North Highline continue to receive the quality protection we’ve been paying for, the unions included salary and benefit concessions for themselves. Their letter to North Highline’s Fire Commissioners and Chief LaVielle is included in the minutes of that meeting at

    On occasion I’ve been able to attend a commissioners’ meeting at 8:00 in the morning on a work day. I always make a point of asking the commissioners to change the meeting time so the public can be involved in the process. My requests have been ignored.

    A review of the minutes of the Commissioners’ Meetings will show that they spend hours in Executive Session. I wonder about all those executive sessions. Why do NH Fire Commissions spend so much time with their attorney behind closed doors?

    It’s my belief that the board’s failure to recognize its responsibility to be open and transparent is a large part of the reason the commissioners got themselves (and us) in such a mess. Hopefully, the two newest board members will consider what they can do to make their decision-making process more open and transparent.

    Again, thanks to North Highline’s Fire Fighters for finding a path out of the disaster that was waiting right around the corner. As for the education and experience of Chief Marrs, I’ve spoken with him a couple of times. He’s clearly a bright man who cares about the community. For that I am also grateful.

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