Petitions don’t fly for ferry workers

Two Washington State Ferry employees were disciplined last week after they used work time to petition the annexation of some acreage to the city of Langley.

While he was on the ferry Aug. 18, Dennis Hunsinger of Langley said he was approached by a ferry worker on the passenger deck of the Klikitat. The worker asked him to sign a petition opposing the annexation of a portion of Coles Road to Langley.

In an interview Monday, Hunsinger said the employee was wearing a uniform, and his name tag identified him only as “Rob.” Hunsinger said he asked the man if he was on duty, to which the man said “Yes.” Hunsinger also asked the man if he felt the petition was appropriate use of his time.

“He was gone. He just took off like a shot,” said Hunsinger.

Hunsinger said he followed the man into the galley area, where he asked him who his supervisor was and where he could be found. The ferry employee told him the supervisor was in the wheelhouse. When the ferry pulled into the Clinton dock, Hunsinger had no time to further pursue the matter.

Later that evening at home, Hunsinger wrote an e-mail to Washington State Ferries, asking the agency to address the issue of its employees soliciting a petition while on the clock.

“I wasn’t out to get anybody in trouble,” said Hunsinger. “They needed to be aware their employees were doing this. This just hit me as being completely wrong.”

Hunsinger also sent Langley Mayor Lloyd Furman a copy of his e-mail, to advise him of his experience aboard the ferry. Furman responded by sending an e-mail to WSF, and asked for a response.

“I cannot believe that your employees are not informed about taking sides on an issue while at work for a government agency!” Furman wrote in the e-mail to WSF.

On Tuesday, WSF spokesperson Susan Harris-Huether said WSF disciplined the two employees for their actions. Company policy did not allow her to release the names of the two employees, nor specify the sort of discipline handed to the employees.

“We feel very sorry about this,” Harris-Huether said. “This is not acceptable.”

Harris-Huether said the petition in question had been circulated on the ferry for approximately two hours. Circulating the petition was a violation of the code of conduct for ferry employees. She said the employees were asked to destroy the documents circulated on the ferry.

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