Whistle blower cries foul over demotion

SEATTLE -- A local firefighter says he was demoted for blowing the whistle on his department and prompting an investigation into alleged ethics violations, according to a complaint filed with the Mayor's Office.

Battalion Chief James Woodbury said he was retaliated against for making allegations against Lt. Milton Footer. Woodbury had filed a complaint with the Seattle Elections and Ethics Commission last September, accusing Footer of abusing his power.

An ensuing investigation by the ethics commission found that Footer, who has been handling all the fire marshal duties for Qwest Field and the Qwest Field Event Center since 2002, had "grossly wasted public funds."

The report stated Footer failed to bill First and Goal, a Paul Allen company which operates Qwest Field, $195,679 to pay for firefighters who work overtime during Seahawks games to ensure public safety.

The investigation also concluded Footer misused his official position by allegedly strong-arming Key Arena personnel to get an extra backstage pass for his fiance to a sold-out Hannah Montana concert.

Footer has been placed on paid administrative leave.

Woodbury said he filed a complaint with the Mayor's Office in January, claiming he was demoted from deputy chief and assistant fire marshal in retaliation for blowing the whistle on Footer.

"I have a perfect record of employment with the city and have never been the subject of discipline," Woodbury wrote in a letter to the mayor.

Woodbury also wrote that knowledge of the ethics complaint he filed is widespread within the fire department.

According to the ethics commission's report, when firefighters asked the chief to step in over the years, Fire Chief Gregory Dean's answers varied and included accusations that they were "out to get Milt."

In its report, the ethics commission called Seattle Fire Department's response "unsatisfactory," saying the "potential for misconduct is extremely high."