A meeting of Spokane's police ombudsman commission turned tense Tuesday night as one member made an impassioned case for ending efforts to secure a visa for a permanent police ombudsman candidate.
Commissioners ultimately voted 3-1 to make one final effort to get a visa for Raheel Humayun, the candidate picked in November for the permanent job, with commissioner AJ VanderPol abstaining. Humayun, a Canadian citizen, was rejected for an expedited visa application in March, but can tweak the application and try again at the U.S.-Canada border.
Commissioner Scott Richter argued it's time to move on and work towards hiring interim ombudsman Bart Logue to fill the permanent post, something Logue has said he's willing to do.
Richter and other commissioners voted unanimously to hire Humayun in November, but Richter said Tuesday night that Humayun wasn't well-qualified for the job.
“He wasn’t any of our first choice. He was our choice by process of elimination," Richter said, referring to the remaining two finalists who were disqualified following background checks. “There was only one that was hireable and he was the least qualified out of all of them."
Commission chair Deb Conklin and other commissioners were quick to disagree, pointing out Humayun is currently an investigator with the British Columbia Office of the Ombudsperson. That led to a heated exchange between Richter and Conklin about Humayun's qualifications:
Conklin: To suggest that somehow a Canadian is less suitable to know Washington law than someone from another state in this country completely misunderstands how law works.
Richter: I don't feel that way.
Conklin: I know you don’t feel that way, but it doesn’t mean you know anything about the law.
The bulk of the meeting was more cordial, with commissioners hearing a report from Logue about his review of police department cases.
They also discussed a letter Council President Ben Stuckart and Mayor David Condon sent to commissioners calling on them to begin the process to appoint Logue as permanent ombudsman. Commissioners said letter, which came after a meeting between Conklin, VanderPol, Stuckart and Condon last week, was harsher and more curt than it needed to be.
“I believe we’re doing what we can to move the process forward as efficiently and expeditiously as possible,” Conklin said.
Commissioners voted unanimously to ask the search committee which selected finalists for the interim ombudsman post to reconvene and begin searching for permanent ombudsman candidates, should the visa effort fail. Humayun's visa should be decided in the next two weeks.