'Veto Proof'

Five finalists for an open council position; plus, Idaho's GOP gets a new chairman

Five finalists have been named to replace Steve Salvatori's open council seat.

And Then There Were Five...

The Spokane City Council likes to talk about how non-partisan it is, but those words continue to get harder to swallow, especially for local conservatives. This week, the council announced the FIVE FINALISTS to replace Steve Salvatori, a right-leaning businessman who resigned last month to follow work demands to Texas, and the picks have some conservatives worried about the wrath of a supermajority.

The five finalists are: Adrian Dominguez, an epidemiologist at the Spokane Regional Health District who emphasized equal opportunity in his application; Julie Griffith, currently employed by the financial counseling company Money Management International and formerly with the nonprofit Community-Minded Enterprises; Karen Stratton, a current city clerk and former assistant to Mayors Mary Verner and Jim West; E.J. Iannelli, chair of the Emerson Garfield Neighborhood Council and an Inlander contributor; and Kitty Klitzke, Eastern Washington program director at the growth management advocacy group Futurewise and wife of Center for Justice Executive Director Rick Eichstaedt.

"I don't think they represent the type of person voters intended to fill that seat until November of next year," says Michael Cathcart with the Spokane Home Builders Association, who worries another liberal on the council could stall growth-management talks between the city and county. "You create a veto-proof majority and suddenly tactics drastically change."

The council will interview the finalists Aug. 13 from 12:30-2 pm at City Hall and vote to select one Aug. 18. (HEIDI GROOVER)

Insanity Plea

Almost a month after being found not guilty by reason of insanity, MURDER SUSPECT AMBER ROBERTS remains in the Spokane County Jail despite an order transferring her to the custody of a mental health facility with the Department of Social and Health Services.

Roberts, 32, faced charges of first-degree murder and intimidating a witness after strangling a fellow patient at Eastern State Hospital in November of 2012. Roberts had spent close to a decade at the Medical Lake mental hospital when she killed Duane Charley.

"She wanted to help Duane because he was nice to her," a report states. "She knew Duane wanted to get his freedom, and the only way for him to get his freedom was for him to go to heaven."

Mental health evaluators had previously found Roberts competent to stand trial, but a more recent evaluation determined she did not understand the implications of her violent actions. A judge ruled Roberts not guilty by reason of insanity during a July 9 hearing.

Public defender Brooke Hagara says the case moved slowly due to the difficulty and expense of finding an appropriate expert to evaluate Roberts. After getting the latest evaluation, the case was quickly resolved.

Hagara says Roberts will go to the Western State Hospital mental facility in Lakewood to avoid conflicts or safety concerns involving patients who knew her victim. She did not know why Roberts had not transferred out of the jail. (JACOB JONES)

Cleanup after the Chaos

Months later, and the fallout from Idaho's disaster of a state GOP convention is finally quieting down. The convention, in June, adjourned without passing a party platform or electing a new chairman.

"Coming out of it, some thought we didn't have a chairman, and some thought we did," says Cindy Siddoway, the Idaho GOP's national committeewoman. Barry Peterson, the incumbent chair, was in the latter camp, going as far as changing the locks at the state party offices as he struggled to hang onto his chairmanship. (For "security reasons," he explained.)

But the Republican National Committee, Siddoway says, would not recognize Peterson as chair. As Siddoway and Mike Mathews moved to schedule an Aug. 2 Idaho Republican Central Committee meeting to elect a new chairman, Peterson's allies sued to prevent it.

Last week, Idaho Judge Randy Stoker ruled that Peterson was wrong — his two-year term expired at the convention — and that an election of a new chairman was cleared to go forward. Last Saturday, the Central Committee elected Steve Yates, who only recently moved to Idaho, as their new chairman. Yates' politics is closer to George W. Bush than the Tea Party-style politics of Peterson. He was a deputy assistant for National Security Affairs to Cheney from 2001 to 2005, where he advocated a tougher approach on China.

"It is a strange day when my fellow Ron Paulers support a member of Dick Cheney's foreign policy team," says Bjorn Handeen, a Coeur d'Alene libertarian and a delegate at the failed convention. (DANIEL WALTERS)

Grand Coulee Dam Laser Light Show @ Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center

Through Sept. 30
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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.

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters is the Inlander's senior investigative reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...