Week In Review A Look Back At The Top Stories From The Last Week
Sex, lies and videotape
The Spokesman-Review reported last week that top officials at Geiger Corrections Center covered up a scheme to falsely accuse a worker for misconduct in 1992, according to an investigation commissioned by the county.
Seattle attorney Thao Tiedt was paid $49,000 for a report on the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of corrections officer Sandra Pilkington, who the report said was unfairly accused of having inappropriate contact with an inmate. At the time, a doctored videotape was used as evidence against Pilkington, and her job was later restored by an arbiter.
In her report, Tiedt says county corrections director Gary Oberg and Kay Walter, formerly of Geiger but now superintendent of the state’s Airway Heights prison, were among county officials who viewed the tape and “should have known” it was “a false depiction of the facts.”
Oberg “abused his power” and Walter “participated in the cover-up of the truth,” Tiedt wrote.
Confronted by the seriousness of Tiedt’s charges, county commissioners ordered a follow-up investigation to determine the credibility of Tiedt’s witnesses.
Tiedt completed her investigation at least eight months ago. No one she accuses has been disciplined.
Over in City Hall, officials were confronted with the $300,000 realization that a state mandated environmental study of the Spokane trash incinerator has been compromised by the appearance of conflict of interest.
The Spokesman-Review reported Thursday that city engineer Phil Williams has been carrying on an affair with the study’s lead scientist, toxicologist Kathryn Kelly.
Williams’ estranged wife, Nancy Konn, names Kelly in court documents as the woman responsible for breaking up her six-year marriage. Williams said his relationship with Kelly began in September 1996 - after most of the work on the incinerator study had been done. “I don’t see any conflict of interest questions there,” Williams said.
Councilwoman Cherie Rodgers did.
“We have Ecology spending a fortune on a study that isn’t credible, and now we have a major conflict of interest - Phil Williams having an affair with the woman doing the study,” said Rodgers, who serves on a city-county board of elected officials that oversees solid waste issues. “This puts a cloud over everything.”
Meanwhile, School District 81 administrator Hugh Davis was busily pumping out position papers for school board candidate Don Barlow. Davis has been “keeping me up-to-date,” said Barlow, “doing some background checking for me, writing some stuff.”
Davis and Barlow said they don’t view the arrangement as a conflict of interest.
There’s no law or district policy restricting district employees from campaigning in board races as long as they don’t do it during work hours or use district resources, such as copy machines, telephones or paper.
Barlow’s opponent, Joanne McCann, sees it differently.
“It does upset me that a school district employee would do this, at that high of a level,” said McCann. “I think it’s bad on both of their parts. I think it’s a mistake.”
Ending one of the last remaining mysteries of the 1992 Ruby Ridge affair, Boundary County Sheriff Greg Sprungl disclosed Wednesday that ballistics tests proved a federal agent killed Randy Weaver’s 14-year-old son.
The bullet that killed Sam Weaver came from a submachine gun fired by Deputy U.S. Marshal Larry Cooper, Sprungl said. There is no evidence that the deputy marshal saw the boy before firing the deadly shot.
“It’s a bullet from Cooper’s gun, and it’s conclusive,” the sheriff said.
The shootout that began an 11-day siege also left Deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan dead from gunshots fired by Kevin Harris, who was living with the Weavers. Harris was acquitted by federal court in Boise of killing Degan.
Taxing turnaround The Clinton administration Tuesday abandoned its opposition to a congressional plan for an overhaul of the Internal Revenue Service, clearing the way for the proposal to become law as early as next spring.
The White House turnabout came after congressional support for reforming the IRS - roundly criticized of late for abuse of taxpayers and mismanagement - suddenly snowballed into a seemingly unstoppable bipartisan force.
Republicans welcomed the administration’s support, even as they derided it as political opportunism.
“This is classic Clinton,” said Ari Fleischer, Ways and Means Committee spokesman. “He recognized his position was going to be overridden, so instead of standing for his position he simply changed it.”
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The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Compiled by News Editor Kevin Graman from wire reports