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Bumps in the Road 

Condon and Stuckart get together on business incentives; plus, questions swirl around Mielke's bid for county CEO

click to enlarge Spokane Mayor David Condon - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Spokane Mayor David Condon

HELP NEEDED?

The Spokane City Council filed an amendment to the municipal code Wednesday that would allow council members to bypass the POLICE OMBUDSMAN selection committee in the hiring process for an interim ombudsman. Currently, the code says the selection committee must send three qualified candidates for both the interim and permanent positions to the Office of Police Ombudsman Commission, the body responsible for hiring, when a vacancy occurs. So far, the selection committee has refused to give the OPO Commission names to fill the interim position, despite several requests to do so.

Selection Committee Chair Nancy Isserlis, the city attorney, says none of the people who applied for the interim position are qualified, which is why they're focusing on filling the permanent position. Although the decision of whether or not an applicant is qualified ultimately rests with the selection committee, the city Human Resources Department's initial review of applicants found that all interim resumes met the minimum qualifications.

The council's proposed amendment comes a month after it passed a resolution urging the selection committee to identify interim candidates. If passed, the amendment would take about two and a half weeks to take effect.

Adrian Dominguez, who sits on both the OPO Commission and the selection committee, estimated that, in the best-case scenario, someone would be hired for the permanent job in October. (MITCH RYALS)

INCENTIVES OVERHAUL

On Monday, Mayor DAVID CONDON and Spokane City Council President BEN STUCKART stood together to announce that they were working on a new framework intended to better determine how incentives to developers should be offered.

The announcement comes a week after the Spokane City Council declined to approve a $318,000 payment to Spokane hotelier Walt Worthy — something which Worthy says was promised to him by the city to cover the environmental remediation costs at the Davenport Grand Hotel. On Monday, Worthy appeared before the council to reiterate that he didn't make a "back room" deal with the mayor, while saying that the city council had expressed early support for the agreement.

The dust-up over Worthy prompted Condon and Stuckart, who've clashed in the past, to craft a framework meant to prevent similar situations in the future. The framework will evaluate the value of proposed economic development projects and allow the mayor and the council to determine which incentives will be offered. Condon said that the policy would cover large multi-million developments but also smaller projects in neighborhood business districts. (JAKE THOMAS)

GILDING THE PARACHUTE

State law bans city council members from even applying for a city manager position, until a year after their council term expires. But the county equivalent — Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke's applying for the county's CEO job while still sitting on the board — has no such restriction.

Now that Mielke is one of two finalists for the job — with the final decision in the hands of his fellow commissioners — some are calling for the process to be restarted.

"There are way too many coincidences in this whole thing," says former County Commissioner Bonnie Mager. Among other accusations, she argues that Mielke helped current County CEO Marshall Farnell get a considerable raise, both delaying Farnell's planned retirement long enough for Mielke to get a resume-boosting MBA, and setting himself up for a higher future salary.

Indeed, according to Spokane County HR Director Cathy Malzahn, Farnell received in 2012 a nearly 27 PERCENT SALARY BUMP, worth about $33,800 a year. Over the long term, that value is even more dramatic: He'll be eligible for up to $20,280 more in annual pension benefits than if he had retired before the raise.

Yes, Mielke says, he tried to get Farnell to "stay as long as possible," and Farnell's raise was given partly as an incentive to stay longer. But Mielke was absent for the 2012 vote, and he says he wanted Farnell to stay to give the county more time to come up with a transition plan — rather than as a tactic to buy time to complete an MBA.

Farnell's raise had been long in the works, ever since a 2009 study found Farnell was vastly underpaid compared to his peers, Mielke adds.

Farnell, and Commissioners Al French and Shelly O'Quinn were out of the office, and did not respond by press time. (DANIEL WALTERS)

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