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So Long, Spokane 

Councilman Steve Salvatori steps down; plus, "back dating" developments?

Steve Does Dallas

Spokane City Councilman Steve Salvatori announced this week that he will resign July 8. Salvatori says personnel challenges at the company he founded — Salvatori-Scott, which represents over-the-counter medication providers and stores they sell to, like Walgreens — demand he move to Dallas, where the company's headquarters recently relocated.

Salvatori took office in 2012, leaving a year and a half of his term after he resigns. Through an application process, the remaining six councilmembers will select his replacement.

During his time on council, Salvatori has advocated for business interests, pushed for increased independence for the city's police ombudsman and led the 17-member Fire Task Team, which made recommendations for improving city fire service, including testing one-person response units for non-life-threatening medical calls.

"I don't know that anything is ever completely done, but I'm happy I got to at least work on some of those things," Salvatori says. Even as councilmembers disagreed, Salvatori says he's proud they "did it professionally and did not make it into a circus."

— HEIDI GROOVER

Legal Questions

Disability Rights Washington recently launched an awareness campaign in opposition to questions on the state's bar exam that advocates argue discriminate against law students who have suffered with or sought treatment for mental health issues. The Washington State Bar Association says it has recently modified exam questions to address some of those concerns.

The Seattle-based rights group called out two bar exam questions that ask about an applicant's diagnosis or treatment for any "psychotic, mental, emotional or nervous disorder," instead of inquiring more specifically about problems with conduct or capabilities. Applicants who answer "yes" must provide additional info.

The questions imply an issue with any diagnosis or treatment, advocates say, regardless of whether it impacts a person's ability to practice law. In a video for the campaign, Gonzaga law professor Mary Pat Treuthart says the questions may aturn people away from seeking help.

DRW cites recent Justice Department findings that called similar bar exam questions in Louisiana a violation of civil rights protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Debra Carnes, spokeswoman for the Washington State Bar Association, says the exam in July will use updated language following the DOJ findings.

— JACOB JONES

Friends and Benefits

Landscape architect Stephen Smart — a longtime donor to Todd Mielke and other conservative county commissioners — benefited mightily when his property at Bigelow Gulch and Argonne Road was included within the county's Urban Growth Area expansion last July.

The 2014 assessment of Smart's two-acre property, near the Smart Gardens nursery, was just over $134,500, but after the UGA expansion and a new water line, it's for sale for over $1.02 million.

The urban expansion was struck down by the Growth Management Hearings board in November, but because Smart appeared to already have his paperwork approved, the project is able to move forward anyway.

But Rick Eichstaedt, an attorney challenging the zoning, says he made a discovery: Public records appeared to show that the county's certificate of completeness for the project had been dated for August of 2013, but had only been issued when additional questions had been answered in January 2014 — months after the UGA expansion had been ruled invalid.

When questioned about the document, two county employees, Building Director Randy Vissia and his employee, Julie Shatto, refused to answer, pleading the Fifth.

"It tells me that these people were willing to do anything to make this project go forward," Eichstaedt says.

Smart maintains the paperwork had been completed last August. "For all the stuff that they're alleging to be true, the county has to be corrupt..." Smart says. "I don't think anything was backdated. I think they made a clerical error."

Since 2008, Smart's limited liability company, DART LLC, has donated more than $1,500 to Mielke. On top of that, Smart and his businesses have donated to Commissioner Al French and former Commissioners Phil Harris and Mark Richard.

Smart has long had a preexisting relationship with Mielke and French. Each worked with him on projects when they were in the construction industry. "They're friends, too," Smart says.

— DANIEL WALTERS

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