Acting Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession is scheduled to take his oath of office in a public ceremony today, the latest change triggered by last month’s recall of former mayor Jim West.
The ceremony at noon in Council Chambers at City Hall comes just two weeks after the City Council voted to appoint Hession as West’s replacement.
Hession initially became mayor pro tem on Dec. 16, the same day the Spokane County election canvassing board certified West’s recall by 65 percent of the city voters who cast ballots in the historic election.
After Hession takes his oath, a six-member City Council will convene its first two meetings of 2006, a 3:30 p.m. briefing and 6 p.m. legislative session. Both meetings will be televised on Cable Channel 5.
Newly elected Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin, representing northwest Spokane, will take her seat for the first time. McLaughlin will join Mary Verner and Al French, all three of whom won election to four-year terms in November.
Council President Pro-Tem Joe Shogan will chair the meeting after having taken the gavel from Hession on Dec. 19, when Hession stepped down as council president in advance of his appointment to replace West.
One of the first issues facing the council is a proposal to establish a new code of ethics and create a seven-member commission to oversee enforcement of the code. The ethics proposal had been talked about for years in city politics, but it gained momentum last year in the wake of allegations that West had used his office for personal benefit.
Before becoming mayor, Hession served four years on the City Council, initially winning election in 2001 from the city’s South Side council district. He then became council president in a citywide election in 2003. In that race, Hession defeated French.
Before serving on the council, Hession sat for 11 years on the city’s Park Board. He is a veteran business attorney with the Richter-Wimberley firm in Spokane.
Today’s swearing-in will be broadcast live on Cable Channel 5 and replayed various times through Jan. 14.
Hession has said he wants the city to begin a more aggressive annexation policy to increase the city’s tax base, and he hopes to improve planning for growth and development in areas the city may annex at some future date.
He is facing two important appointments – the replacements of retired Police Chief Roger Bragdon and former City Attorney Mike Connelly.
Jim Nicks, who was appointed acting chief by West, has said he is a candidate for the chief’s post. Deputy Police Chief Al Odenthal also has said he wants to be considered for the job.
Hession last week said he intends to create a selection committee this week to help him decide on a replacement for Bragdon. But the mayor said he has not decided whether to seek candidates outside the department.
Bragdon became acting police chief in 1999 after Chief Alan Chertok resigned under questions about his leadership. Chertok and his predecessor, Chief Terry Mangan, were both selected from outside the Spokane Police Department and broke up what had been a long line of chief selections from within the department. Bragdon, who joined the Spokane force in 1973, was appointed chief in 2000.
Then-City Attorney Connelly resigned last summer after a failed effort to organize an internal investigation into the mayor’s alleged misuse of city computer equipment to solicit dates from young men.
Howard Delaney, the former city prosecutor, has been serving as acting city attorney since Connelly’s resignation, also under an appointment from West.