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Hiring Bias? 

Lawsuit alleges employment discrimination in county PD's office; plus, the Valley addresses panhandling and the right to petition

click to enlarge Spokane Valley has updated its anti-panhandling ordinance to prohibit all types of solicitation.
  • Spokane Valley has updated its anti-panhandling ordinance to prohibit all types of solicitation.

PUBLIC OFFENDER?

An attorney in the Spokane County Public Defender's Office is suing her boss for employment discrimination.

In a lawsuit filed last week, Brooke Hagara alleges that Spokane County Public Defender TOM KRZYMINSKI promoted two less qualified lawyers over Hagara because she was pregnant at the time she applied, and because of an alleged past sexual relationship between the two.

The lawsuit names Krzyminski, the director of the office, and Spokane County and asks for $500,000 in damages.

Hagara, who has worked as a public defender for the past 10 years, applied for an open senior attorney position in June 2015 after she told Krzyminski she was pregnant. Hagara says she was not interviewed and claims that Krzyminski hired a less experienced female attorney, Jill Gannon-Nagle, instead. Hagara left for maternity leave in December 2015 and applied for senior attorney a second time while on leave. Krzyminski gave the job to a male attorney, Kyle Zeller, who took over one of Hagara's cases while she was gone.

Krzyminski says he can't comment on active lawsuits.

Hagara also points to comments from Deputy Director Karen Lindholdt "repeatedly" telling Hagara "that she may not want to handle serious cases, remain in felonies, or even remain at the office after she had her baby," court documents say. Both Krzyminski and Lindholdt have applied for the vacant District Court judge position.

Finally, Hagara accuses Krzyminski of discriminating against her because she ended a previous sexual relationship with him, and he "was not happy about it." The allegations of a sexual relationship were not mentioned in Hagara's original tort claim, filed ahead of the lawsuit, nor in her complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (MITCH RYALS)

CAN I ASK YOU SOMETHING?

Spokane Valley has updated its city code to no longer target aggressive begging or PANHANDLING, instead prohibiting all kinds of solicitation.

Spokane Valley residents shouldn't worry this might increase the number of panhandlers, as Valley Councilman Sam Wood initially feared when learning of a proposed change to city code.

Spokane Valley has two different municipal codes regulating solicitation. The first, amended in 2014, makes it illegal to solicit from vehicle occupants. Until last week, when the Valley updated the code, the city also prohibited "aggressive begging in any public place in the city."

Yet according to a state Supreme Court case earlier this year, the language of that Valley code would have infringed on the free speech rights of citizens because it restricted speech based on its content, according to a state Supreme Court case earlier this year, City of Lakewood v. Willis.

To align with the ruling, Valley city staff proposed changing the language from "aggressive begging" to "aggressive solicitation," a distinction that would encompass asking for charity, selling or distributing goods or services, and soliciting signatures on a petition or survey. The key is that you can't engage in those activities aggressively, by intimidating another person.

The Spokane Valley City Council's initial resistance to this change had nothing to do with panhandlers; it had to do with the right to petition.

Councilman Michael Munch wanted the word "petition" struck from the new ordinance because he saw it as an important part of keeping the public "involved in government affairs." Even though Deputy City Attorney Erik Lamb said the ordinance would not infringe on anybody's right to petition — only that people couldn't do so aggressively — Munch held firm.

"You either have to strike that word from [the] petition out of there, or I can't support it at this time," Munch said during the first reading of the ordinance. Ultimately, however, when it came time to approve the ordinance, the council approved it unanimously.

"This does not implicate the First Amendment," said City Attorney Cary Driskell. "Even though it uses the word 'petition,' it is not to infringe on anybody's right to petition, it's just they can't do it in a way that's aggressive." (WILSON CRISCIONE)

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