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To take sides in tribal casino debate, French uses a legal distinction on duties

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Today's regional story about a vote at the Airway Heights City Council had a legalistic issue tucked away and not easily elaborated on. The story noted that two Spokane County commissioners -- Al French and Todd Mielke -- argue that a 2010 county agreement with Airway Heights should not be allowed to stop them from commenting or taking sides on a proposed Spokane Tribe casino on the West Plains.

French is using a distinction that we were not clear about before. He said, based on a Washington attorney general's office review, that one elected body cannot preclude or prevent a later elected body from exercising its legislative duties.

In this case, the county board in 2010 seems to have tied the legislative hands of the current board, according to French.

He draws a distinction between administrative and legislative duties of elected officials. If for instance the 2010 board signed a contract with some other body to pay money for hauling off refuse, that's an administrative action. And such acts can continue for as long as the terms allow.

But legislative options are not subject to that pre-emptive control, French said, citing the AG's opinion.

We've linked a PDF of the letter sent by the AG's office to Spokane County. It's at the bottom of this post.

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Tom Sowa
Tom Sowa covers technology, retail and economic development and writes the Office Hours blog.




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