The Bad Wizard

We're now seeing the real mayor behind the curtain

Toto runs behind the curtain exposing the Great Wizard of Oz, who turns out to be a little old man, a phony. Dorothy gasps, blurting out, "Oh, you're a very bad man." The wizard responds, "Oh, no, my dear, I'm a very good man. I'm just a very bad wizard."

The record is now clear on one thing: Our mayor is a very bad wizard; his key personnel decisions are problematic, even disastrous. As for whether he is a "bad man," the public is now weighing the evidence.

David Condon is sticking to his story that he fired Police Chief Frank Straub because of complaints from senior officers about the chief's management style. He reiterates that Monique Cotton — the former police spokeswoman who accused Straub of sexual harassment — had nothing to do with him firing the chief. Or the decision to transfer Cotton to the parks department, along with a $9,000 raise.

To many observers (especially those whose public records requests were seemingly delayed), his actions look and smell like hush money paid out to keep a lid on things until after the election. Condon insists that he was just trying to be a very good man under confusing circumstances.

Consider the sequence of events: Condon fired Straub while continuing to praise him for putting into place policies designed to avoid police abuses. But then what happens? The mayor's interim chief, Rick Dobrow, hires as a deputy an officer, Craig Meidl, who saluted Karl Thompson in federal court after the disgraced officer was convicted of using excessive force in the 2006 beating death of Otto Zehm, a developmentally disabled man who had not committed a crime.

Does the mayor not understand that this outrageous salute reflects the culture that Straub was hired to change? Is the mayor that tone-deaf? That out of touch?

Moving right along, let's take a look at the Riverfront Park renovation, another emerging mess. For one, the budget for public art in the park has been cut drastically. Members of the local arts community are up in arms. Council President Ben Stuckart is seething. But Condon's leadership team of City Administrator Theresa Sanders and Parks Director Leroy Eadie doesn't seem to have a clue.

It gets worse: City attorneys just stumbled onto an obscure ordinance requiring that any person whose city income exceeds $48,400 annually must reapply and compete for his job at the end of the contract period. They interpreted this to mean that Indian Canyon Golf Course's legendary head professional, Gary Lindeblad, had to reapply for his job.

The problem: They managed somehow to overlook the fact that Lindeblad doesn't receive income from the city. His earnings come from lessons, cart rentals and the restaurant. The Parks Department went ahead with what unavoidably will devolve into a very divisive hiring process.

The long and short of this single administrative screw-up? Lindeblad could have legitimate grievances against the city.

He wouldn't be the first. Straub has filed a $4 million claim against the city saying his due process rights were violated, and on Monday, Nancy Goodspeed, a parks spokeswoman displaced by Cotton, filed a demand for $1 million alleging age discrimination.

By the way, if Lindeblad is forced out of Indian Canyon, not only will most of the Spokane golf community denounce both the parks department and the mayor, I have reason to think that the city will also lose the Rosauers Open Invitational, one of the major tournaments in the PGA's Pacific Northwest Section and a big supporter of the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery.

Just another bad hair day for our bad wizard.

Who will be the next to be thrown under the mayor's bus? That's the question making the rounds among people I talk to. Assuming that Condon passes his "good man" test, the betting line points to Sanders and Eadie. Both are now being referred to as "road kill in waiting."♦

EDITOR'S NOTE: Publisher Ted S. McGregor Jr. sits on the Spokane Park Board and by Inlander policy he doesn't edit columns or news stories involving any park business.

Spokane 4th of July Fireworks @ Riverfront Park

Mon., July 4, 10 p.m.
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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.