When the city of Spokane loans out employees or assets to other governmental bodies, it's reasonable for the city to expect some sort of compensation in return, City Councilwoman Candace Mumm argues. At the very least, the city should track who's being sent where.
And yet, on multiple occasions, Mumm says the city had been loaning out employees without putting a plan in writing for how the city would be compensated.
A Fire Department employee was loaned to the Sheriff's Office, Mumm says. A dispatch supervisor and an IT worker were loaned to the Spokane Regional Emergency Communications. And in some cases, the city wasn't even tracking who the supervisors were, potentially opening up the city to liability issues. Other city assets, like city vehicles and cell phones, were also being loaned to employees in other governmental agencies.
So last month, the City Council voted unanimously to set a series of restrictions on how the city could let other governmental entities use city staffers. Now, whenever a city employee is being loaned out to another agency for longer than six months and at least 25 percent of their work day, it must be accompanied by a written agreement and must be approved by the City Council.
"It was necessary, really, to protect taxpayer dollars," Mumm says.
But Mayor David Condon vetoed the ordinance last week, arguing it would effectively stifle the intergovernmental cooperation.
"Prohibiting the loaning of city employees to other entities unless a myriad of rules are followed sends the message to our partners that their local government is at best uncooperative and at worst completely off limits," Condon wrote in his veto letter.
But on Monday, the council overrode the veto. The vote was unanimous, with even conservative Councilman Mike Fagan joining the veto override.
In Condon's view, the ordinance violated the spirit of the city's strategic plan, which urges more cooperation between agencies, not less. He also argued that the council's mandate was a violation of the separation of powers, saying the council didn't have the authority to tell city staffers what to do.
But Councilman Breean Beggs disputes that it will have any impact on governmental cooperation at all. "All it says is that you have to do it within that structure," Beggs says. "Easy to do."
Instead, Beggs says, this is yet another result of the ongoing clash over the attempt to move to an integrated countywide police and fire dispatch system. The City Council has repeatedly voted unanimously to oppose the move to the integrated system, while the mayor has continued to push in that direction.
"We're finding out now even more and more about what the city was giving over to the [Spokane Regional Emergency Communications Systems] which was undermining the city dispatch system," Beggs says.Editor's note: An earlier version of this story inaccurately reported that two city employees were loaned to the Spokane Regional Transportation Council. They were instead loaned to Spokane Regional Emergency Communications. The information has been updated.