By Ann McCreary

In response to questions from the public regarding Fire Chief Don Waller’s two-year paid leave agreement, Okanogan County Fire District 6 commissioners are reviewing the contract “to understand all options available to the board,” according to a press release issued by the district on Tuesday (March 2).

The board is working with the district’s legal counsel, Brian Snur of Des Moines, to review “the financial impacts, the leave accrual and other contract issues,” and commissioners anticipate further discussion at their next meeting on March 14, according to the announcement sent by Interim Chief Cody Acord.

Asked whether District 6 commissioners could modify the employment agreement they signed in December, Acord said, “I’m sure that’s one of the things the board is looking into — what can be done and what can’t be done.”

The addendum to Waller’s contract grants the fire chief a two-year leave, during which he will be paid for 4,021 hours of vacation and sick leave as well as compensation time that he accrued over 14 years with the district. At the end of the leave Waller will retire and any remaining accrued benefits will be paid out.

The agreement prompted an audit of hours accrued by Waller and other district employees by the state auditor’s office, in response to a citizen-hotline call.

Acord said questions related to the accuracy of the number of hours accrued by Waller may be clarified when the auditor finishes examining district records.

“The state auditor representative is looking directly into those hours,” Acord said.

Acord said he became aware of Waller’s intention to request a leave about two weeks before it came before the commission. Acord became interim chief in January.

Discussion of Waller’s contract at the March 14 meeting may take place in executive session, for reasons of “possible litigation,” Acord said.

“They [the commissioners] know they can’t answer all the questions and lot of the stuff they’ve been advised not to discuss,” he said.