Friday, August 5, 2011

Spokane city attorney: Center for Justice wrong on ombudsman

Posted on Fri, Aug 5, 2011 at 10:09 AM

Spokane's top attorney responded to the Center for Justice in a letter this week, saying the city doesn't agree with the "legal analysis forming the basis of ... [the center's] legal advice" to the city regarding a recent dispute over the police ombudsman.

In his letter, Howard Delaney wrote that he "appreciated the zeal" of CFJ, as well as the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane and VOICES, but that the city essentially rejected the advice from the groups to appeal a state arbitrator's decision stripping independent investigative powers from the ombudsman.

"[The] Mayor will continue her efforts directly with the bargaining units while the attorneys for both the City and City Council continue to review other viable options during the ninety day period [that the Public Employment Relations Committee] retains jurisdiction," Delaney wrote. The citizen groups argue that the dispute never should have gone to an arbitrator, but directly to PERC.

In this week's Inlander story, the mayor said she did not want to "insert myself in that debate," and would leave the decision of appealing up to the city's attorneys. When it was pointed out to her that Councilman Richard Rush was on the record saying he will push city council members to take any appeal path open to them — even to the state Supreme Court — the mayor said she would focus on bargaining with the Police Guild for a solution during the upcoming labor negotiations.

In Delaney's final paragraph, he suggests to the center to not inform local media about its correspondence with the city regarding the ombudsman. Delaney says to use "discretion with regard to publically disparaging the City and the law enforcement bargaining units on the Ombudsman issue for the time being. ... Although this particular tact may be counterintuitive to your constituency, please at least consider the potential validity of the more passive approach for at least the next thirty days or so." 

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