Dingler settlement cost $734,376.50
Updated: Apr 18
A recent court case determined that Mayor Dingler failed to provide due process while terminating the former Ocean Shores Fire Chief, resulting in a substantial settlement.
Fire Chief Bathke began his employment with the City of Ocean Shores on June 12, 2017. During the interview process, the Mayor said according to documents, that "the fire department needed a strong leader to address issues within that organization. It was understood that implementing changes would present some challenges."
After the hire and into his first year Chief Bathke was sent a letter from Mayor Dingler that said, “I am impressed with your leadership skills and style and look forward to a long career for you here in Ocean Shores.”
In Comes the Fire Union
After Chief Bathke began to make some changes within the department, the union stepped in and on December 10, 2018, the fire union voted "no confidence." During this time period the city hired an outside investigator to determine if Fire Chief Bathke committed any discriminatory acts or created a hostile work environment. The investigator interviewed some of the firefighters.
The investigation found "no evidence of any unlawful discrimination, harassment, or a hostile work environment." The City then informed the investigator that no further investigation was needed and no formal report to the City was necessary.
On the very next day, January 16, 2019, Dingler, without conducting any interview of Chief Bathke or undertaking any further investigation to explore the firefighters’ allegations, sent a letter to Bathke informing him that he had “lost the trust and respect of the members of your department” and that she could “see no path forward” for him to continue as chief of the fire department.”
Finally, after a louder-mill hearing (pre-termination hearing), on March 22, 2019, the City gave Chief Bathke an official notice that he was terminated from his employment. This failure in due process and breach of contract resulted in a settlement of $734,376.50.
To hire a person to address issues, then fire that person for addressing issues certainly came at a cost to the citizens of the city.