Nation/World

Consumer Laws To Be Toughened Council Will Consider Fines For Faulty Scales, Other Woes

Spokane’s long-toothless consumer protection agency is about to get some fangs.

If the City Council approves the plan at tonight’s meeting, the Weights and Measures Department can begin levying fines against businesses that don’t give customers their money’s worth.

The proposed ordinance includes civil fines for a variety of offenses - not just consumer ripoffs. The list includes violations ranging from failure to post exit signs to “harboring excessive, prohibited animals.”

The city decriminalized much of its municipal code in the mid-1980s, leaving many departments unable to penalize people who violate ordinances.

Assistant City Attorney Larry Winner recently finished drafting the fine system, which includes four classes of infractions.

Fines range from $25 to $250, depending on the class.

Alex Schmall, who works in Weights and Measures, said he thinks the fines are too low, but state law forbids anything higher.

Being able to cite offenders makes it possible to release the names of violators to the public - something that wasn’t possible before, Schmall said.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said.

The new ordinance also makes it possible for the city to fine businesses that repeatedly have false alarms. That’s when police respond to a security alarm only to discover it’s an error.

Of the 7,054 alarms Spokane police responded to last year, only 176 involved “felonies in progress,” Lt. Bruce Roberts recently told the council.

Also tonight, council members will consider:

A contract with Haupt Management Consultants to help evaluate how well City Manager Roger Crum is doing his job. The contract’s cost can’t exceed $5,000.

Crum’s contract expired in September, and he’s been without a new agreement since.

Council members will use the information gathered by the consultants to decide whether to renew Crum’s $93,000-a-year contract.

A $97,450 contract with Spokanimal CARE to provide free spay and neutering services for residents’ pets.

A revised ethics policy for council members.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: MEETING A briefing for residents begins at 3 p.m. in the lower-level conference room of City Hall. The council’s briefing starts at 3:30 p.m.; public forum at 6; regular meeting at 6:30.

This sidebar appeared with the story: MEETING A briefing for residents begins at 3 p.m. in the lower-level conference room of City Hall. The council’s briefing starts at 3:30 p.m.; public forum at 6; regular meeting at 6:30.



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