Friday, October 9, 2015

Straub, VanderSloot, and other lawsuit-slinging folks among the morning headlines

Posted By on Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 9:24 AM

Fired Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub isn't going to go down quietly. Instead, he's suing the City of Spokane, Mayor David Condon, City Administrator Theresa Sanders and City Attorney Nancy Isserlis for $4 million dollars for violating due process in the way he was terminated. 
Former Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub wants $4 million.
  • Former Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub wants $4 million.

To be clear, that's the same Nancy Isserlis who's currently Straub's boss. In a fiery letter Oct 2, (the day after this Inlander cover story was published)  Straub attorney Mary Schultz calls the firing of Straub a "hatchet job,” “politically motivated railroading” and “a premeditated and engineered plan to elevate the mayor's decisiveness quality at the expense of Frank Straub's reputation.”

“City administration undercut his authority, coddled mutiny, and subversively managed cancerous factions to its own perceived advantage,” Schultz wrote. 

In particular, she takes aim at the information the city released in conjunction with Straub's firing. Schultz says they "bludgeon[ed] him with this press release process,” and “intentionally distributed these damning allegations.” She says the city promised Straub payments and benefits “in exchange for his work on his own burial announcement — your press release.”

The letter further calls into question the timeline presented by Sanders. Sanders told Spokesman-Review reporter Nick Deshais that the decision to fire Straub came "six seconds before" a press release was sent out on 4:37 pm on Tuesday, Sept. 22. Schultz claims that Straub had already been terminated the day before. 

"That's clearly not true," Schultz says to the Inlander when asked about Sanders' comments on the timeline. "The history doesn't support that." 

Similarly contradicting Sanders' claim, in a statement Thursday evening, Mayor Condon said, "We received a signed resignation letter Tuesday morning, but because of a pending claim cannot comment further.”

Condon's opponent Shar Lichty didn't hesitate to pounce: "It is apparent from the numerous versions the media and public have been given in regards to the 'resignation' of Frank Straub that we may never know the truth," Lichty said in a statement Friday morning. "The truth doesn't change and yet we continue to get conflicting and ever changing statements from the Mayor's office."


The two-decades-long battle for compensation from who lived downwind from the Hanford nuclear plant, and suffered because of it, has finally come to an end, Northwest News Network reporter Anna King explains. All 3,000 of them have either settled or dropped their claims.

After handily losing a defamation case against Mother Jones, famously litigious Idaho political donor Frank VanderSloot is far from cowed. In fact, he promises to establish a $1 million fund for conservatives to sue liberal papers in the future.
"I will be urging others who share my (and the Court’s) view about the press’s pattern and practice of character assassination to contribute to the fund as well," VanderSloot writes in a statement

Black-sounding names make white people make racist-sounding assumptions. "I've never been so disgusted by my own data," the study's author said.

“I will not be a candidate,” former VP candidate Paul Ryan said when Rep. Kevin McCarthy announced he would not be running for Speaker of the House. The Washington Post explains why he might be a candidate anyway.
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Thursday, October 8, 2015

[UPDATED] Frank Straub files a $4 million claim against the city for due process violation

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 5:26 PM


Spokane's former police chief, Frank Straub, has filed a $4 million claim against the city for violation of due process. 

Straub was forced out of the department a few weeks ago after complaints surfaced from high-ranking officers about his leadership style.

In letters to City Attorney Nancy Isserlis dated Sept. 18, the officers complained about emotional outbursts, personal attacks, use of profanity, untruthfulness and threats regarding employment, among other things. Before a news conference on the afternoon of September 22, those letters were given to reporters to provide justification for Straub's removal. The fact that the letters containing the allegations against Straub were made public without giving him a chance to respond is a violation of due process law, says Mary Schultz, Straub's lawyer. 

"You can release or reassign a police chief. He's an at-will employee," she says. "But what you can't do is send out a bunch of attorney client confidential letters without letting the person accused of these things address them."

In the suit, Straub denies that he resigned. In a letter to the city Schultz writes: 

"You fired Chief Straub on Monday morning, Sept. 21, 2015. City administrator Teresa Sanders texted him at 6:39 a.m. on Monday, September 21st, and required him to report to the Mayor for a 7:00 a.m. 'meeting' of unannounced content. ... [Straub] was told he was being discharged that day unless he immediately submitted his resignation. He was told of the existence of the letters, but not shown the letters. He asked for an investigation, and was denied. His termination was already a fact." 

Schultz alleges that the city dumped Straub for political reasons. "This was an engineered process to damage Frank Straub and enhance the mayor's standing."

“This is unfortunate as we would like to move the Spokane Police Division forward without distraction," Mayor David Condon said in an emailed statement. "We received a signed resignation letter Tuesday morning, but because of a pending claim cannot comment further.”

A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that the claim was for wrongful termination. In fact, the suit is for violation of due process in the manner of termination. 
Read the entire claim below: 


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Is an 'East Coast law firm' behind the latest Envision initiative?

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 4:58 PM

From the Alliance to Protect Local Jobs website
  • From the Alliance to Protect Local Jobs website

The Worker Bill of Rights, an initiative that will go before voters in coming weeks, will either be a much-needed victory for long underpaid and kicked-around workers, or it will cripple the local economy, depending on who you ask. 

The Alliance to Protect Local Jobs, the campaign opposing it, argues that the initiative is not only a bad idea, it’s being “driven by an East Coast law firm” that wants to make Spokane part of its broader agenda.

That law firm, according to Michael Cathcart, the lobbyist for the Spokane Home Builders Association who is also overseeing the campaign against the Worker Bill of Rights, is the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. The nonprofit law firm has championed the idea that natural ecosystems are entitled to legal rights and has challenged the legally entrenched idea that corporations are entitled to the same constitutional rights guaranteed to actual people. According to its website, CELDF has helped over 200 municipalities in 10 states draft versions of its Community Bill of Rights that have incorporated these ideas.

In Pennsylvania, these laws have been used to combat fracking, a controversial process used to extract natural gas. CELDF has sought to expand these laws into Ohio, Oregon and elsewhere.

“They have a certain agenda, not just for the country, but the world in fact,” says Cathcart of the CELDF, which did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Continue reading »

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Is it racist? Is it safe? Is it funny? and other questions of the day

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 10:05 AM

Kalispel Tribal Vice Chair Ray Pierre fishes along the Pend Oreille River near Cusick, Wash. The Kalispel tribe is very concerned about water pollution impacting fish.
  • Kalispel Tribal Vice Chair Ray Pierre fishes along the Pend Oreille River near Cusick, Wash. The Kalispel tribe is very concerned about water pollution impacting fish.

Happy fish consumption day!
 Gov. Jay Inslee is going to take another shot at announcing water quality standards. What standard will he choose? Curious federal regulators want to know. Here's our background on the issue

Listen to this robocall against Sandpoint mayoral candidate Shelby Rognstad and tell us: Is It Racist? (Hint: Yes.) It's one of the few negative campaign tactics in Idaho, I assume, to focus largely on California and Ferguson, Missouri. 

A Spokane police officer who was charged with domestic violence — specifically, of trespassing by pushing his way into his girlfriend's home and yelling at her that she was a "slut" while armed with a .38 revolver — is back on active duty, ready to Protect and Serve the Public. 

Jaime Pendleton, of Date Grape infamy, is facing charges for felony grand theft for stealing an ATM card. And, for the record, jokes about him getting graped in prison are NOT funny. 

Can NATO, that scrappy band of Boy Scout do-gooders, band together to stop neighborhood bully Putin? The New York Times explores the question.

Kevin McCarthy, whose big mouth on the Benghazi committee handed Hillary Clinton a big campaign ad,  has dropped out of the Speaker of the House leadership race. He was widely expected to win. So what happens next?
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Kootenai County Sheriff's Office sniffs out two phone scams

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 9:25 AM


The Kootenai County Sheriff's Office is warning the public about two phone scams asking for money and personal information. 

The first is a call from a recording claiming to affiliated with the Kootenai County Jail and asking to put money on an inmate's telephone account with a credit card. The number commonly used is 866-516-0155. It appears the number has been disconnected. 

"No one from the Sheriff's Office will be calling you and no auto-dialer from the Sheriff's Office will call asking for credit card information," Sheriff Ben Wolfinger said in a news release. 

The second scam asks family members of recently deceased veterans for money to bring a life insurance policy up to date. The number associated with this scam is 800-772-1233, and it, too, appears to be out of service. 

Wolfinger says his office sees a new jail-related scam about once a month. 

"Don't give personal identifying information or credit card information to someone you do not know or where you did not initiate a business contact," he said via email. 

There have been no arrests made in connection with these scams. 
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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Listen (or don't) to an outrageous robocall against a Sandpoint mayoral candidate

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 2015 at 3:19 PM

Politics has long had whisper campaigns, with negative rumors — racial, sexual, criminal — spread secretly by campaigns. Of course, with the advent of the automated robocall, you don't need to be subtle about it anymore.

So it is with a recent robocall against Sandpoint mayoral candidate Shelby Rognstad. It warns Rognstad's support for high-density zoning will plunge Sandpoint into a crime-ridden hellhole of "undesirable elements." If that sounds a bit racist to you, let me assure you: It's more racist in context. 

It also calls Ferguson, Missouri, a "violent jungle of looters and primitive destroyers."
Listen to the full robocall ad here:

Drawing on the full transcript from Better Idaho, I'll offer point-by-point context.  The narrator adopts a faux-deep sinister voice that sounds like a half-hearted parody of a negative campaign ad
Sandpoint City Council president Shelby Rognstad has been targeted by robocall that seems, well, listen for yourself - PROVIDED BY SHELBY ROGNSTAD
  • Provided by Shelby Rognstad
  • Sandpoint City Council president Shelby Rognstad has been targeted by robocall that seems, well, listen for yourself

Shelby thinks you’re stupid. Now he’s out of job and needs a paycheck and he wants you to give it to him by letting him be mayor of Sandpoint.
I called up Rognstad to ask him about this. He's guessing that the anonymous caller is referring to the fact that about two months ago he closed the Common Knowledge cafe and bookstore that he owns. 

"I'm running for this office and it will require nearly full-time dedication to this race," Rognstad says. And, yes, the economic reality was part of it. The business climate has changed in Sandpoint, he says. And that's a good thing. Where, at one time, a retail bookstore and café that serves organic breakfast and lunch was unique, lately other similar business have opened up. It's never easy to run a bookstore, especially if you have competition.

But it's not like he's unemployed. Rognstad still has Rognstad Enterprises (a real estate holding company) and Rognstad Capital (a private lending company) to keep himself occupied. Oh, yeah, and he's the Sandpoint city council president. So no, he says, he doesn't need the money. 

Continue reading »

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Patrick Rushing, Hillary's e-mails, bare shoulders and other controversial things

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 2015 at 9:59 AM

Oh, hey, remember Patrick Rushing of controversial Facebook posting fame? Well, he's running for Cheney School Board, against a Liberian refugee.

A Bonner County hospital's former CFO has surrendered on embezzlement charges.
I have returned.
  • I have returned.

The "Great Bare Shoulders" at Coeur d'Alene School Dances Controversy continues.

The easiest way to fill your empty garage? Create a civil forfeiture unit. About 40 percent of the vehicles were seized vehicles under the  drug seizure law or the felony seizure law.

But all that loot has created additional problems for the police department: "If we’re going to continue to seize vehicles at the rate we are, then we will need additional storage for that,” evidence supervisor Kevin Berry says.

Governor Jay Inslee is pushing for a "conversion therapy" ban on psychologists and therapists promising they can turn gay people straight (or at least straighter) despite every bit of evidence to the contrary. 

The Boise Weekly takes on the Patriot and III%-er movement in Idaho. We took on this story here

TV used to be about awful people who were great at their job. Now, the anti-heroes are just plain awful at pretty much everything.

The firm managing Hillary Clinton's e-mail server was allegedly told to reduce the number of e-mails it was backing up after the e-mail controversy had arisen, leading one employee to worry that "this whole thing really is covering up some shaddy (sic) shit.
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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Municipal workers endorse Lichty in Spokane mayoral race

Posted By on Tue, Oct 6, 2015 at 9:33 AM

Spokane city workers want a new boss.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 270, the union representing non-managerial rank-and-file workers in Spokane’s municipal government, have endorsed Shar Lichty, who is challenging David Condon for mayor.
Shar Lichty
  • Shar Lichty

“We endorsed Shar Lichty because her values seemed to line up more with ours,” says Jim Tieken, the union’s political action coordinator.

Specifically, Tieken says Lichty was more in agreement with the union on wage increases and benefits packages. Condon, he says, would like to put compensation more in line with the private sector and cites how the mayor discussed turning the city’s pension system into a 401k shortly after being elected.

“Being the largest union to represent city employees, it is clear that Mayor Condon’s poor leadership goes beyond his choices for top administrative positions,” said Lichty in a prepared statement. “His employees are dissatisfied with his performance in the job he was elected to do.”

In a statement, Condon replied, "Regardless of Local 270's endorsements, I look forward to continue working with them and the other city unions should I have the honor of serving a second term. I will continue to work to make city hall more efficient and find innovative ways to serve all the people of Spokane."

In other endorsements, the union took a neutral stance on the Worker Bill of Rights. It endorsed City Council candidate Lori Kinnear and incumbent Councilwoman Karen Stratton, as well as Council President Ben Stuckart.

Randy Ramos, who is challenging arch-conservative Councilman Mike Fagan for reelection, did not get the union’s endorsement.

“We’re not sure what’s going on with Randy’s campaign,” says Tieken. “We just haven’t seen much of Randy, unfortunately.”
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Dolezal's a hero, Marco's a Muppet and other bold claims in the news

Posted By on Tue, Oct 6, 2015 at 9:10 AM


Spokane's long police ombudsman drought continues, as controversial ombudsman candidate Robert Breeden declines to move to Spokane for a four-month trial period while his past is being investigated. That doesn't mean he's not willing to be the ombudsman. He just wants commitment. 

Smoking is bad for your health.
And the Spokane Regional Health District wants it to be bad for your employment, too. The District has been encouraging companies to discriminate against smokers, hiring non-smokers for specific jobs. They're leading by example. At the Spokane Regional Health District, Smokers Need Not Apply.

Don't threaten to kill two people in your culinary program. Police arrested the guy who allegedly did just that at Spokane Community College.

11-year-old Aiden Kemp is paralyzed from the neck down. So Gonzaga University engineering students are building him a specialized recumbent bicycle for his birthday. 

But do you know who's the real hero? Rihanna says. Spokane celebrity civil-rights superstar Rachel Dolezal

As the Jeb! crumbles in the polls, his friend-turned-rival Marco Rubio looks to benefit. Rubio, young and charismatic, began the race as few Republican voters' first choice. But he's practically everyone's second choice, the New York Times' Upshot blog explains. And as the field winnows down, second choices begin to become first choices.

It's been long established that Mitt Romney is Guy Smiley, but which Muppets represent this year's crop of GOP candidates? The New Yorker investigates, concluding, with good reason, that Donald Trump is Animal.  
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Monday, October 5, 2015

Breeden declines interim ombudsman job; still interested in permanent position

Posted By on Mon, Oct 5, 2015 at 12:26 PM


Robert Breeden declined the offer to serve as Spokane's interim ombudsman. 

The Office of Police Ombudsman Commission voted last week to offer Breeden, who lives in Florida, the four-month appointment. The the five-member commission also voted to send an investigator to Florida to look into allegations surrounding Breeden's treatment of employees while he was the assistant special agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Miami.

"Due to my current personal financial and professional obligations, I cannot accept the interim assignment," Breeden says in an email to commissioners. "But I do remain interested in the permanent ombudsman position, and will gladly cooperate with the additional vetting the Office of Police Ombudsman Commission agreed to pursue."

The commission also voted last week to ask the city council for funds to send investigators to Florida and Victoria, British Columbia, where another candidate, Raheel Humayun, works.  

The next OPO Commission meeting is tomorrow, Oct. 6 at 5:30 in City Council chambers. 
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