And So It Begins...

A federal lawsuit alleges Spokane County withheld meds for a mentally ill inmate; plus, who's running for office?

Lawsuit challenges jail policy

A newly filed federal lawsuit alleges that Spokane County, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and jail officials violated a 19-year-old bipolar inmate's civil rights by failing to provide essential mental health medications for nine days despite repeated attempts by the man's family to arrange treatment. The family argues that jail medication policies contain widespread delays and contradictions that result in unnecessary suffering and safety risks.

Danny Lee, who has bipolar and other impulse disorders, was booked into the Spokane County Jail in May of 2013. His family says they had notified the jail in advance of his medication needs, obtained a court order approving meds and supplied pharmacy-sealed bottles of his prescribed medications. The lawsuit states that jail staff refused the meds, citing security protocols.

The family's attorney, Jeffry Finer, says several others have come forward with similar complaints about delays in receiving medical or mental health medications while incarcerated at the county jail or Geiger Corrections Center.

John McGrath, director of county Detention Services, has acknowledged inconsistencies in jail medication policies and launched a review of practices. Knezovich, who oversaw jail operations until June of 2013, says he considers the lawsuit legal retaliation for the son's incarceration.

"I don't really believe that it is that big of an issue," Knezovich says. "We have one individual who is trying to make it an issue."


Tightening the purse strings

When Councilman Steve Salvatori decided earlier this year to gift $15,000 to the city's warming center program for the homeless, the reaction was almost universally positive. But then came the rest of the details. Among other expenditures, Salvatori had also transferred $5,000 to the Spokane Angel Alliance, an entrepreneurship group of which he is a board member. That spurred complaints that Salvatori and Council President Ben Stuckart, who signed off on the spending, had violated the city's code of ethics. In a 3-3 tie last week, the city's ethics committee dismissed those complaints, but changes to council policy may result from the controversy.

The money Salvatori allocated had been set aside for a full-time legislative assistant, which the councilman says he doesn't need.

Last month, former Council President Joe Shogan complained that Salvatori's role on the Angel Alliance board created a conflict of interest. The city's code of ethics bans both conflicts of interest and their appearance. Despite the complaint being dismissed, the council is now discussing changes to its internal policy that would prevent councilmembers from spending money allocated for assistants on other things, except through emergency budget ordinances, which are voted on by the entire council. A vote on the policy change is expected next month.


Who's running?

Filing week for candidates running for office in Washington state began on Monday. Statewide, 10 U.S. Congressional seats will be up for grabs on this year's ballot, as are all 98 state House seats and roughly half of the state Senate's 49 seats. Candidates have until Friday to officially enter the 2014 race. Here's a look at some of the local candidates who've filed so far:

In the 5th Congressional District, Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is officially seeking her sixth term in office. Independent Dave Wilson, the founder and former president of Interface College in Spokane, has filed to run against McMorris Rodgers.

Rep. Leonard Christian, R-Spokane Valley, who was tapped to fill former Rep. Larry Crouse's seat after his retirement from the legislature, is running for his 4th District House seat. Bob McCaslin Jr., son of late 4th District Sen. Bob McCaslin, also filed to run.

The primaries will be held on Aug. 5. The general election will take place on Nov. 4.


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About The Authors

Heidi Groover

Heidi Groover is a staff writer at the Inlander, where she covers city government and drug policy. On the job, she's spent time with prostitutes, "street kids," marriage equality advocates and the family of a 16-year-old organ donor...

Jacob Jones

Staff writer Jacob Jones covers criminal justice, natural resources, military issues and organized labor for the Inlander.

Deanna Pan

Deanna Pan is a staff writer at the Inlander, where she covers social justice, state politics and health care. In her cover stories, she's written about mass shooting survivors, NGRI patients and honey bees...