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The (Finally) Fightin' Fifth 

Sheriff Knezovich wants to revive rehabilitation programs at Geiger. Plus, Cathy McMorris Rodgers gets a Dem challenger.

click to enlarge Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich - YOUNG KWAK
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  • Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich

GEIGER COUNTERPROPOSAL?

A week after The Inlander reported on the gutting of staff and rehabilitation programming at Geiger Corrections Center, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says he’s bringing back some of the programs.

But, he insists, that was always the plan.“We’ve been working on things for six months,”Knezovich says. “We’ve been trying to get things restructured.”

Last July, Knezovich scrapped Geiger’s original rehabilitation programs with a pilot program based on one being run in Hillsboro, Ore. The pilot program was then tabled in October when “we got hit with $3.1 million cut.”

“I said we needed $350,000 to $600,000 so we can keep all these programs intact,” Knezovich says he told county commissioners. Last year, the commissioners called for an across-the-board cut to every county department. “No one stepped up. … Everyone says how important these programs are, but it’s really about putting your money where your mouth is.”

Gordon Smith, the union representative for most of the staff at Geiger, says he hadn’t heard about the re-instatement of Geiger’s programs until he read about them Tuesday morning in the Spokesman-Review.

“I had heard talk of them trying to, in some manner, bring some [programs] back at some future point in time,” Smith says. “But today’s detail was the first news I got.”

Still, he says it’s good news, especially for the 14 probation officers who were let go when the programs were discontinued last year. “It’s encouraging,” he says. “One of the union’s goals is to get the P.O.’s back to work.” (Nicholas Deshais)

NEW KID IN THE FIFTH

After three terms representing the 5 th Congressional District, Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers should be used to taking on Democratic challengers. After all, she defeated them in 2004, 2006 and 2008 — each time with more than 55 percent of the vote. This year’s race looks like it could be just about the same.

But her new challenger, Democrat Clyde Cordero, sees it differently.

“The times they are a-changin’,” says Cordero, a 50-year-old publications business consultant and Spokane Valley resident. “I think people are open to looking at people that aren’t in the traditional political class. I won’t be able to match her financially, but I understand

what everyday people face in their lives.” After it appeared that McMorris Rodgers’ only opponent this fall would be Constitution Party candidate Randall Yearout, Cordero announced this week that he plans to run for the seat.

Cordero served as an Intelligence Analyst in the 101 st Airborne Division during Desert Storm and has been a member of the American GI Forum, a civil rights organization for Hispanic veterans. Although he studied political science at San Jose State University and has been on neighborhood associations and city council boards, this is Cordero’s first campaign for office. (Heidi Groover)

FIGHTING FOR TRANSPARENCY

Attorney Breean Beggs has stepped into the fight over the city’s refusal to release reports about complaints related to police conduct compiled by the new Office of Police Ombudsman — even to the very person who filed the complaint.

The ombudsman’s office, created in large measure to create trust and transparency between citizens and the police, gathers complaints made about police conduct, sends them to the police Internal Affairs office for investigation and then reviews the findings.

Since Ombudsman Tim Burns opened shop last September, only six complaints have been sustained. The overwhelming majority has been ruled by Internal Affairs to be unfounded and thus, according to the city records office, cannot be released.

Not even to David Edwards, who says he cannot tell if his complaint was fairly presented and investigated without seeing Burns’ report.

In its denials of requests for ombudsman records, the city cites a case Cowles Publishing v. State Patrol, which Beggs says is “20 years old” and has largely been superceded by a newer case, Bellevue John Does v. Bellevue School District, which has been broken down and clarified by the state Supreme Court.

“Bellevue has some great language: ‘Under our holding, the public can access documents related to the allegations and investigations (subject to redactions),’” Beggs says. It’s clear the Supreme Court says that as long as names are blacked out, the document itself can be released even if the complaint is unfounded.

This should be especially true of ombudsman documents, which are not law enforcement documents, he says, City Administrator Ted Danek says he has arranged a meeting between Beggs and city attorney Howard Delaney to hash out differences on policy regarding release of ombudsman records.

The City Council is also wrestling with the issue, scheduled to vote on revised and expanded powers for the ombudsman June 21. (Kevin Taylor)

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