Pin It
Favorite

Leaving on a Jet Plane 

Two defeated Spokane Valley politicians take a trip to Texas — paid for by the voters who kicked them out of office.

click to enlarge art14350.jpg

Two weeks ago, Spokane Valley Mayor Rich Munson and Councilwoman Diana Wilhite lost their bids for re-election. A week later, the two hopped on a flight for Texas, headed for almost a week-long stay in San Antonio.

And the city picked up the entire tab: airfare, lodging, food and registration costs for the annual Congress of Cities, a conference for elected officials put on by the National League of Cities.

Both say they gathered valuable information for the city, but many are wondering if the city should pay the bill for city leaders who were just rejected by voters.

“If you’re asking me if I would have gone if I had lost re-election, the answer would be no,” says Bob McCaslin, a state senator who defeated Munson by a 3-to-2 margin. “The trip was not appropriate.”

Munson and Wilhite — who were accompanied by council members Rose Dempsey, Bill Gothmann and Gary Schimmels — aren’t apologizing.

“I went there for a couple of reasons,” Munson says. “The basic reason was I didn’t think I was going to lose and it was too late to cancel. The city was going to pay the money anyway.”

Munson’s tab for the city came to about $2,200, and Wilhite says she has “no idea” how much her trip cost because she just got back and her “brain’s a little tired.”

But Gothmann, who already turned in his expense report, handed over a bill for $2,200, plus another $900 in registration fees. On behalf of the city of Spokane, Councilman Steve Corker turned in a tab for $2,600.

Wilhite says she and the others signed up for the trip at last year’s conference. “The thing is: We register so early for the convention that if we cancelled, the city wouldn’t get any of their money back,” she says. “They give you a super deal [when you sign up early]. … It’s always such a savings.”

Neither offered their trips to their rivals after Election Day. “Legally, that wasn’t possible,” Munson says.

But Gregory Minchak, a spokesman for the league, says this isn’t true. The conference did have a cancellation policy: Anyone could have backed out by Oct. 20, two weeks before the election, for a $75 fee.

“Additionally, we allow for substitutions if someone can’t make it,” Minchak said in an e-mail. “There is no cost to substitute.”

Anticipating backlash for the trip, Wilhite says she pondered staying home.

“I thought about not going, but there is a lot of information that is immediately transferable. I thought it would be beneficial,” she says. “Even though I won’t be on the council next year, this is information I can pass on for them to use.”

Wilhite says she mainly schooled herself in ways to secure federal funding for transportation dollars, which she will pass on to city staff and use in her upcoming position as an advisory member of the Spokane Regional Transportation Council.

And Munson gathered information for the city and the Association of Washington Cities, of which he is a board member. He’ll report to that board on Nov. 20 and Dec. 2.

Brenda Grassel, who defeated Wilhite, is a little more forgiving toward Munson and her former opponent, saying “the council has been going every year and they use it as an educational tool.”

“I just want to move forward and I want to look at the ongoing expenses in the future,” Grassel says.

Besides, as Munson says, somebody had to represent the city at the conference since “Bob McCaslin doesn’t go to these things.”

McCaslin doesn’t disagree. “As senator, I’m entitled to a trip once a year. But I haven’t gone in seven or eight years,” he says. “I don’t go on trips. I don’t like to travel, to be honest with you.”

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Recall and Response
  • Recall and Response

    The attempt to remove Spokane Mayor David Condon from office may be a long shot, but he isn't taking any chances
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Shades of Black Lives
  • Shades of Black Lives

    A Spokane County detective's Facebook post about Black Lives Matter sparks debate among local law enforcement
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Fires Hit Home
  • Fires Hit Home

    Tens of thousands of acres burn around Spokane on Sunday and Monday; plus, DOJ weighs in on concerns over bail system
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat
Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion

Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion @ Mobius Science Center

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 31

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Nicholas Deshais

  • Rehab Reality
  • Rehab Reality

    Toys are stacked on the front porch of the Isabella House, but the kids are nowhere to be seen. Inside the front door and behind a red, velvety curtain in the imposing 113-year-old house on the edge of Coeur d’Alene Park in Browne’s Addition, their playroom is also abandoned.
    • Jun 3, 2013
  • Studying Spokane
  • Studying Spokane

    One third-year med student relishes his time at UW East
    • Apr 2, 2013
  • Ever Ready
  • Ever Ready

    What happens after you dial 911?
    • Apr 2, 2013
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • 'Unreasonable Threat to Life and Property'

    Spokane's rental housing has problems, but landlord and tenant groups are split on a solution
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • 'End of Story'

    Condon administration aims to close the controversial Frank Straub chapter — but last week's scathing report has irrevocably changed the narrative
    • Aug 4, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


election 2016


green zone


marijuana


trail mix


Readers also liked…

  • Behind Locked Doors
  • Behind Locked Doors

    A suicide inside Eastern State Hospital raises questions about care and transparency
    • Jul 28, 2016
  • Priced Out
  • Priced Out

    Spokane rents aren't as bad as in some other cities, but tell that to people spending more than half of their income on housing
    • May 6, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation