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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Celebrate the glory of fresh hop beers at the Lantern Tap House this weekend

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 4:14 PM


There's this trend in the craft beer world that's been going on for a while now, but just seems to have caught the attention of the mainstream beer consumer and that's fresh hop beers. These are beers brewed with, as the name implies, hops that are freshly picked and dropped into the brewing process before given a chance to dry out, making for a floral, aromatic and overall delectable beer. The downside? The beers are typically made in small quantities and don't last as long due to the brewing process.

So when something like the Lantern Tap House's Third Annual Fresh Hop Festival rolls around, you should hop (pun!) on the opportunity to taste as many as you can. The festival, which is now underway until 10 pm and runs again tomorrow (4 to 10 pm) and Saturday (noon to 10 pm), is housed in a tent outside the South Perry Street pub and features an impressive 29 beers from 23 different breweries on tap. Here's the list the Lantern provided us with.

Iron Goat, River City, 12 String, Laughing Dog, NoLi, Double Mountain, Paradise Creek, Ninkasi, Perry Street Brewing, Hale’s Brewery, Ecliptic, Breakside, Beer Valley, Wallace Brewing, Trickster Brewing, Laurelwood, Oakshire, Hopworks Urban Brewery, Full Sail, Sockeye, Payette, Big Sky, and Base Camp.

And, remember, this is probably your only chance to taste the bulk of these beers. I've tasted a half dozen or so fresh hop beers from Northwest breweries so far this season and — let me tell ya, kids — it was a good year for hops.

There's live music tonight and Friday night, in case the beer along wasn't reason enough to get your tastebuds down to the festival. 

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Spokane Chiefs have four former players on NHL rosters

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 3:23 PM


As the 2015-2016 National Hockey League season gets rolling this week, there will surely be some new faces on every roster, and four of those faces are former Spokane Chiefs. Overall, the Western Hockey League has produced 146 players that are now currently on NHL rosters.

Forward Tyler Johnson, who played for the Chiefs from 2007-2011 (and probably doesn't like Jimmy Kimmel very much), will again be strapping on his skates for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015. Fellow forward Michael Grabner, who played for the Chiefs from 2004-2007, will be playing for Toronto Maple Leafs. The Chiefs have also sent two defensemen on to the NHL this year, with Jared Spurgeon playing for the Minnesota Wild and Jared Cowen skating for the Ottawa Senators. Spurgeon played for the Chiefs from 2005-2010, while Cowen was a Chief from 2006-2010.

The Vancouver Canucks lead the NHL in WHL graduates with nine on their current roster, while the Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs each boast seven former WHL players on their 2015-2016 rosters. 

The Spokane Chiefs are 3-2 on their season and play Friday night in Portland against the Winterhawks. The next Chiefs home game is Friday, Oct. 16 at 7:05 pm against the Prince Albert Raiders.
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Vote for the Spokane Mayor's Urban Design Awards

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 12:22 PM


What's your favorite Spokane building? The biannual Spokane Mayor's Urban Design Awards committee wants to know for its 2015 People's Choice Awards

Nominated locations aren't just buildings, but also include parks, community gathering places, entire city blocks and even projects that aren't completed or haven't begun construction.

Started less than a decade ago, the Mayor's Urban Design Awards "celebrate the importance of creative thought, technical proficiency, and the relationship of good urban design to our city's economic health and overall well-being." 

The last year awards were given, in 2013, included recognitions of the SIERR Building, Westview Elementary School, the Spokane Falls Community College Music Building renovation and expansion, Riverfront Park's Fountain Cafe and the City Ramp Garage renovation.

Winners of the 2015 awards are to be announced at the end of the month, during the Spokane Arts Awards and costume ball, on Friday, Oct. 30. 

Here are the SMUDA People's Choice Awards nominees:

  • Ruby Suites, 1120 N. Division
  • Fresh Soul restaurant (under construction), 3029 E. Fifth Ave.
  • Holiday Inn Express on the Rock, 801 N. Division
  • NUDO Ramen House, 818 W. Sprague
  • Nectar Wine and Beer, 1331 W. Summit Parkway
  • Olmsted Brothers Green, Kendall Yards
  • Division Street Gateway, I-90 off-ramp at Division
  • Saranac Commons, 19 W. Main
  • Perry Street Brewing building, 1025 S. Perry 
  • Dutch's and Huppin's block, 400 W. Main
  • Spokane Convention Center expansion's completion
  • University District Gateway Bridge (to be constructed)
  • University of Washington Spokane Center, 201 W. Main
  • DCI Engineers Office, 707 W. Second
  • Ferris High School modernization
  • The Gathering House, 733 W. Garland
  • Sprague Union Terrace, 1420 E. Sprague
  • The Nest Plaza in Kendall Yards, West Summit Parkway and North Cedar
  • Spokane Tribal Gathering Place, North Post Street between City Hall and the Washington Water Power plant

Voting for the People's Choice Award closes on Oct. 23. If you don't want to cast your vote online, in-person ballots are available on level two of River Park Square.

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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

WW: Council candidate talks weed, Spokane Valley says no more pot businesses

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 2015 at 3:39 PM

Welcome back to Weed Wednesday, your weekly dose of pot news. Wondering what this is about? Click. Looking for our previous marijuana coverage? Click. Got a question or tip?
Email me at [email protected]

Evan Verduin is running for Spokane City Council against incumbent Councilwoman Karen Stratton. He wants the council to get back to legislating on basic municipal services and avoid social issues that he says are needlessly divisive. Backed by Mayor David Condon, he says he’ll be independent and will bring a business perspective to the council, which he and Condon both say is needed. 
Evan Verduin is running for City Council. - JAKE THOMAS
  • Jake Thomas
  • Evan Verduin is running for City Council.

But what does he think about weed? The Inlander asked.

Inlander: What did you think about 502 when that was being considered?
Verduin: Honestly, I just let the voters decide. So, with my experience with pot, I've seen friends that have used it. Through college I was exposed to it in my fraternity at U-Dub (University of Washington). I'm still not 100 percent convinced that it doesn't lead to other types of drug use. I've had two friends who started out smoking pot and then went into prescription painkillers. Now, that it's legal, obviously some numbers came out recently showing a lot sales in the state, and maybe that revenue could be put to good use, but there should be some education on the topic. I personally would never use it.

Have you ever used it?
I have. In college.

When was the last time you used it?
Probably freshman year in college. Just being honest. Honestly, there’s probably three times I can think of in my life I’ve used it.

Was 502 a good idea or a bad idea?
[Pauses] 502 was an initiative. Again, the initiative process should run its course and the voters approved it. So I support it because the voters approved it. If it was a City Council item, I would probably be hesitant to approve it. Like, let’s say the question was, can we legalize it in the city of Spokane? I probably wouldn’t have jumped on board as a council member. But it's there, and people do it.

In other news, the big story last week was the Kettle Falls Five were sentenced.

The Spokesman-Review reports that "[federal Judge Thomas Rice gave] Rolland Gregg to 2 years and 9 months in prison. He gave Gregg’s wife, Michelle, and his mother, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, 1 year and 1 day in federal custody. All will remain out of prison pending an appeal, a notice of which will be filed in the next two weeks, said lead defense attorney Phil Telfeyan."

Larry Harvey, the family’s patriarch, had his charges dismissed due to a terminal cancer diagnosis. He later died. Jason Zucker took a plea deal before trial and was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison.

“Jail time for the Kettle Falls defendants is an embarrassment to the judicial system,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of the pro-medical marijuana group Americans for Safe Access, in a prepared statement. “We’re calling on President Obama to pardon all three defendants immediately.”

Marijuana is "infinitely worse" worse than tobacco says Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper,

Don’t call the cops to tell them you’re too high.

Support for legalizing marijuana in Texas is gaining traction.

Spokane Valley has put a moratorium on all new marijuana businesses.
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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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