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Penny Pinching 

The Guilds’ School takes to the streets; plus, accusations against a prison therapist

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Paying It Forward

In a packed chambers last August, Spokane Guilds’ School supporters pleaded with the Spokane City Council not to pass a panhandling ordinance outlawing stepping into the street to collect money from cars. They told council members the measure would cripple their annual penny drive, which raises about $60,000 a year for the school for children with developmental disabilities and delays.

In the end, they only won a partial victory: The ordinance only took effect downtown, leaving the rest of the city open for such activity. Now, just days from this year’s penny drive, Guilds’ School representatives are worried.

Between Spokane’s new ordinance and a similar one passed in Spokane Valley in 2010, the school is down from 18 collection sites to 13. When the Valley’s ordinance passed and the school had to move to parking lot donation sites there, they saw a 10 to 15 percent drop in donations, says Development Director Ken Daniel.

“Less sites means less opportunity,” Daniel says. So they’ve upped advertising efforts to compensate. “It’s been a tight year. It hasn’t been easy on a lot of different fronts. … We’ll just have to see.”

They’re hoping donors will be willing to stop in parking lots and drop cash in their buckets at intersections like Francis and Nevada and 57th and Regal. The drive is Saturday, April 27, and donation locations are at guildschool.org.

— HEIDI GROOVER

Sexual Misconduct

Investigators allege a female prison therapist had multiple sexual or inappropriate encounters with an inmate she was counseling through a sex offender treatment program at the Airway Heights Corrections Center.

The therapist, who had worked for the Department of Corrections for several years, resigned April 11 when confronted with the allegations. Authorities have not named her pending formal charges.

Prison spokeswoman Risa Klemme says an alert guard caught the therapist and inmate in an “inappropriate situation.” Officials immediately called the Airway Heights Police Department to launch a criminal investigation.

“We consider any inappropriate touching or relationship to be against prison policy,” Klemme says, adding, “We have zero tolerance for sexual exploitation or inappropriate behavior between staff and offenders.”

Airway Heights Police Chief Lee Bennett says interviews in the case indicate there were at least three sexual encounters between the therapist and the inmate. His department plans to recommend three charges of custodial sexual misconduct in the first degree.

“We’re just putting the finishing touches on the report,” he says, expecting to file with the Prosecutor’s Office on Friday. “We believe it’s a pretty ironclad case.”

— JACOB JONES

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