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Posts tagged: ombudsman

We have an Ombudsman—sort of…

Good morning, Netizens…


You have to always give credit to the elder spokespersons in our Fair City, because their sense of right and wrong nearly always are spot-on when it comes to recommending clinically good decisions. No, I am not bespeaking the lackluster members of the Spokane City Council. Bob Apple aside, the City Council ‘s lack of decisiveness and acumen is only equalled by their ability to hold decent public meetings where the public can speak to issues without fear of being escorted from the premises. There are other elders in our community who speak well, have cogent thought processes and aren’t afraid to speak their piece, even in front of the august City Council members.


Now take last night’s City Council meeting, for example, where they ratified the lackluster Police Ombudsman who-has-no-authority. As I have stated in the recent past, having a Police Ombudsman without full investigatory powers similar to those held by the Ombudsman in Boise, Idaho, is a waste of taxpayer’s money. Apparently most of the elder spokespersons in our community agree with that.


Marianne Torres perhaps coined the description best when she described hiring Tim “Hippie” Burns as Police Ombudsman like “a fox watching the chicken coop”.


Now you might not like Marianne Torres, because of some of her political stances. You might want to ask her why, if she is as sage as she appears, why she never ran for City Council. Maybe it is because she is too savvy to do something crazy like run for a City Council position. On the other hand, Mz. Torres aptly speaks for the disenfranchised, the downtrodden in our midst, most of whom question just about everything passed into law in our fair city. You take away the Ombudsman’s authority and what do you have? Nuttin’ baby. Everyone except the members of the City Council and the Mayor seem to agree with that.


Of course, if you have attended and/or watched City Council meetings past and present, you would know George McGrath. I am told there is even a George McGrath fan club, given the length of time he has appeared in the Citizens Forum pointing out the inequities of our city government. Typically armed with a sheaf of public documents, and loaded for bear, George can be counted upon to point out gross stupidity in our midst, and has done so for decades. George was escorted from last night’s City Council session for muttering deprecations from the audience about the ombudsman position. He is right when he says there is nothing being accomplished for the citizens.


That’s the problem, in my eyes. We have a Police Ombudsman bereft of any real powers, and a City Council and Mayor who do not know when to shut up and listen to our village elders.


However, we have a Police Ombudsman now. Sort of. Our City is still married to the Police Guild, a quasi-secret society of police that make their own rules as they go along. Can you agree with them or the Village Elders? It’s a choice, you know.


Dave

No Reason Given, says Mayor Mary…

Good evening, Netizens…


Reference http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/jun/16/spokanes-first-police-ombudsman-selected/


We have a candidate for police ombudsman. His name is Timothy Burns of Visalia, California, a retired police officer now working as a neighborhood preservation advocate.


“I am excited to be able to move this process closer to conclusion,” Verner said in a prepared statement. “I believe Mr. Burns is the right selection for our community.”


Did you notice something was missing? There was no explanation why she chose Burns over the other two candidates, the FBI official and Texas A&M instructor, or Greg Weber, a Spokane attorney and former deputy director of the Washington State Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Tony Betz.


I gave Queen Mary her moniker because of her yakkety-yak-don’t-talk-back attitude, with the exception of when she is singing “Proud Mary” with Doug Clark for grins and giggles. Did we have a snow emergency? Her immediate response took fifteen lines of print to deny it. Most anytime she has something to say she is chattier than a Chatty Cathy doll stuck in overdrive.


Who muzzled Queen Mary on her choice of ombudsman and why? Is there an unseen hand keeping her from explaining why she chose Burns?


Now it goes before the City Council for ratification. Maybe we’ll learn the reason(s) for her choice, but probably not.


Dave

Why I did not attend Friday evening’s show…

Good evening, Netizens…


Thus far, I know of only one of the purported half-dozen people who attended last night’s first showing of the Police Ombudsman candidates, and the comments of this person regarding the process were not all that complimentary either. In fact, I haven’t heard from one person who was astronomically wowed by the first meeting. Although, as the Spokesman-Review has noted in a piece about the Ombudsman introductions here, http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/may/30/protest-outdraws-ombudsman-forum/ the number of people who attended the protest regarding the Ombudsman role vastly out-numbered those who attended the 5:00 PM meet-and-greet session.


Why didn’t I attend?


One: I do not believe for a moment that an Ombudsman without any independent investigative authority over Police or their Guild is capable of doing their job. Barring the ability to investigate police, what good is the Ombudsman’s office to begin with? I have seen first-hand and read accounts where a vibrant, active Ombudsman, armed with the right to investigate charges against police, would be an invaluable asset to our community. However, without that right by law, my prediction is that an Ombudsman without investigative authority will result in the same runaround and half-truths that take place already.


Two: Planning a public meeting of this type at 5:00 PM on a Friday night virtually guarantees that few, if any people will bother to show up. Furthermore the lack of planning shows disdain for the common person who has to work for a living, make dinner and take care of their families, just the sort of grandstanding I have come to associate with Queen Mary Verner, Mayor of Spokane.


With the people already distrustful of the process by which the Office of the Ombudsman was created, and the apparent lack of trust they have in the Police Department, Spokane needs a more generic overhaul beginning at the top of the administrative towers of power.


Dave

Ombudsman Candidates coming to town…

Good morning, Netizens…


Spokane Mayor Mary Verner yesterday announced the three candidates who will be considered for the position of Police Ombudsman. All three candidates will be in Spokane May 29 through June 1 to attend public forums, interviews and various other meetings.


The finalists include:

  • Anthony Betz, of College Station, Tex. Mr. Betz is a retired FBI agent who is currently working as an adjunct professor at Texas A&M University. According to the Spokesman-Review, in 1995, Betz was suspended with pay during an investigation into FBI’s handling of the 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge in North Idaho. Almost a year after he was suspended, he was reinstated and cleared of wrongdoing, according to news reports at the time. “I was cleared completely,” Betz said in a phone interview Monday.

  • Timothy Burns, of Visalia, Calif. Mr. Burns is a retired police officer who is now working as the Neighborhood Preservation Manager for the City of Visalia.

  • Greg Weber, of Spokane. Mr. Weber is an attorney in private practice and has previously served on the staff of the Washington State Attorney General. Last year he came in third in a three-way primary for a Spokane County Superior Court judgeship.

A series of three forums, designed to allow the public to provide their comments on the candidates, will be held as part of the selection process. The forums are set for:

  • Friday, May 29, at 5 p.m. in the Chase Gallery in the lower level of City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

  • Saturday, May 30, at 10 a.m. at the West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt.

  • Saturday, May 30, at 2 p.m. at the East Central Community Center, 500 S. Stone.

In addition, a meet-and-greet session with the candidates has been set for 5 p.m. on Monday, June 1, also in the Chase Gallery just prior to the start of the City Council meeting. You might want to come early to guarantee yourself a good seat.

The City of Spokane began recruitment for the ombudsman position earlier this year; 128 people applied for the position. A five-member committee oversaw the candidate review process and recommended the three top candidates for the position to the Mayor.

The selected candidate will be appointed as ombudsman for a three-year term and can be reappointed to a second three-year term. The salary range for the position is $77,130 to $94,628.


Dave

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