by KEVIN TAYLOR & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & "F & lt;/span & ree at last! Free at last!" Brad Stark exclaimed as he pushed open the double glass doors to exit the Spokane City Council chambers for the last time as an elected councilman.
And Stark certainly went out in signature style -- jousting with Council President Joe Shogan through the evening, casting the single no vote on a resolution to adopt the 2008 budget and delivering another head-spinning twist on the final issue, filling Mayor Mary Verner's vacant city council seat.
Stark, who before the meeting told The Inlander he would help Shogan push the selection into next year, reversed field and voted with the majority to appoint Eastern Washington University administrator Michael Allen to fill the vacancy.
The vote ended a process that saw obscenities, insults and testiness among council members, and which seemed rushed and barely public. Eight finalists, selected from 26 applicants, were announced at 5:15 last Thursday evening with the first interview at 8:30 Friday morning. All finalists were interviewed by 3:15 that afternoon.
The proceedings were further confused by Stark, who pointedly did not vote on the resolution to create the selection process. He announced he would not vote in the process but submitted three candidates for consideration as finalists at the special meeting last week, then did not attend any of the interviews the next day.
He explained that he wanted Richard Rush, who defeated Stark in the November election, to make the choice.
"I go out of my way to be gracious ..." Stark told Shogan during a sharp exchange at Monday's meeting. "I invite Mr. Rush to join me on the dais."
"He doesn't belong on the dais. He's not on the council yet," Shogan snapped.
"Mr. Stark, your legacy right now is you declare a lot of things and you don't do them and you blame me for it," Shogan said before calling the final vote.
Rush attended Monday's meeting -- and all of the finalist interviews -- but said he told Stark he would not join council members at the table during those interviews last week.
"I told Brad ahead of time I would not be participating in that. I was just there as an observer," Rush said.
Rush and Allen will be sworn in Dec. 27 at 5:30 pm in the council chambers. Both represent District 2 -- all the city south of the Spokane River.
The selection process was rife with political knife fighting. Rush was accused of drumming up enough applicants to push the selection far enough ahead that he would be on the council to choose Verner's replacement (Rush said Monday he still thinks more time would have been the best outcome), and the faceless "power elite" was accused of trying to load up with applicants of its own.
Cries of "politics!" were launched like javelins around the council chambers. The thinking: Voters this fall resoundingly rejected Stark and Mayor Dennis Hession, each heavily funded by business and development interests, in favor of Rush and Verner.
The open seat should retain the flavor of the election, Rush and others contended, and not go to a candidate with opposite views. There was even sentiment that, if possible, Verner's seat should go to another woman, Rush said.
Rush said he found it striking that, "Out of 10 women who applied, one made it to an interview. Out of three realtors who applied, two were interviewed."
Allen, Rush said, "seems like a personable, intelligent, well-spoken man."
Allen, during his interview with council members last week, listed economic development as an important issue, said he considers it important to work with neighborhood councils and that economic development must be tempered by environmental concerns. He is the director of corporate and foundation relations at EWU, essentially, Allen told the council, working with faculty and staff on funding for events or programs.
Stark, who brought an energetic and keen sense of politics to the council as well as an eagerness to mix it up in the political hurley-burley, often prowling behind the dais to low-talk with other council members as interminable meetings lurched along, deserves a final anecdote:
Late in the meeting Shogan was ending a hearing on a land vacation and called for a vote.
Stark: "Mr. President, you need a motion to close the hearing first."
Shogan: "You are right again. Would you make the motion?"