All In For 2015

As a mayoral election looms, perplexing details emerge in the Scott Chesney episode

As Mayor David Condon heads into his re-election year, now obviously having gone "all in" with his Girl Friday, Jan Quintrall, he has to know that the Scott Chesney affair of this past November isn't going away.

Announcing the firing, the mayor came across as genuinely perplexed, which in and of itself suggests an unsettling detachment. Most troubling, he apparently never asked Quintrall the two most obvious questions:

1. "Want to fire him, Jan? OK, but first explain to me how is it that he has almost unanimous support from the City Council, the Plan Commission, a half-dozen key developers and several neighborhoods?"

2. "Oh yes, and if, as you say, Planning staff morale is a huge problem, tell me how, in addition to all this constituent support, during his tenure we've cut permitting time in half?"

We know more about Quintrall than we did when this story first hit. I have seen her résumé — the very résumé that, according to Quintrall, even the mayor never asked to see. As she confirmed to the Inlander, Quintrall has a high school diploma, very limited college experience and no college degree.

Her résumé is thin up until 1991, when she started working for the Colorado Springs Better Business Bureau. By 1996, she had moved up to director of marketing, then in 1998 it was on to Spokane.

She came to the mayor's attention through her successes in the Spokane BBB and at the Spokane Club. Once hired, she hit the ground running. A self-appointed art expert, she ordered murals in City Hall removed. She then set about transforming herself into a planning expert and shortly launched into a year of micromanagement, which involved "embedding" herself into the department. Last year ended with the Chesney firing. Along the way she became an engineering services expert, influencing the hiring of a marginally qualified director.

Additionally, Quintrall never did complete a formal job application. So: no résumé, no job application... On what basis did the mayor hire Quintrall, a woman of little education and zero related experience? Beats me.

Digging into all these goings-on is made all the more difficult because the Condon administration, over the past three years, has failed to produce a coherent organizational chart. And for the general public's sake, you can find nothing online — what passes for our website is a civic embarrassment. For this column, I have relied on two public records requests.

We learn that in early 2013, Quintrall gave Chesney high marks. Here are two representative comments: "There are few individuals who you can count on as you can Scott." Then, "Wow, I can honestly say that Scott is usually way ahead of most everyone else. He is always thinking into the future and looking for not just solutions but big ideas."

About a year later, however, she was denouncing Chesney. She writes:

"As a body, Planning has been in the crosshairs all year... "

(Apparently the Plan Commission, the City Council, key developers and several neighborhoods didn't get the memo.)

"When I moved back to the 3rd floor I have been working on shoring up and coaching Scott..."

("Coaching" Scott Chesney, who has years of planning experience in both the public and private sectors? How presumptuous! And it doesn't end with Chesney, as Quintrall has also said that she tried to coach Mark Richard, himself a former two-term county commissioner. She likes that word: "coaching.")

" get planning to perform at the level of excellence like the other departments in the division."

(Excellence in other departments? She moved code enforcement into Community and Neighborhood Services, a move most cities regard to be organizationally dysfunctional, because they know that planning should drive code and code should drive enforcement. By shoving enforcement into a separate division, we add to our number of separate silos, an outcome the mayor says he wants to avoid.)

As Quintrall's objections to Chesney's "team building" skills mounted, the record shows she became increasingly frantic. In one note she denounces Chesney for — get this — leaving his desk and having someone else take his phone call. Only "mayor gets that service," her note indicates.

Still, she continued to give Chesney "a high score in the outward facing portion of his job."

"Outward facing?" Here's how I'd put it: Even though Scott was not at his desk, he apparently got results.

And that's where things stand in the River City castle as this election year swings into play. Stay tuned. ♦

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About The Author

Robert Herold

Robert Herold is a retired professor of public administration and political science at both Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga University. Robert Herold's collection of Inlander columns dating back to 1995, Robert's Rules, is available at Auntie's.