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In brief: No grand jury for garage death

Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker has declined to ask a grand jury to investigate whether criminal charges should result from the death of a woman whose car fell from the River Park Square parking garage in April.

Former City Councilman Stephen Eugster requested Tucker take action, arguing that engineering and other reports show that officials knew before the April incident that the barriers could fail.

In a letter dated Tuesday, Tucker responded that the law didn’t require him to act and that Eugster should forward his investigation requests to police.

State law allows a county prosecutor or Superior Court judges to empanel a grand jury, which could subpoena witnesses. However, it is a rarely used procedure.

“Law enforcement agencies possess unique expertise to determine whether or not an investigation is warranted,” Tucker wrote.

River Park Square is owned by the Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman- Review.

– Jonathan Brunt

Ex-pharmacy tech at prison guilty

A former pharmacy technician at the Airway Heights Corrections Center pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court to five counts of stealing prescription drugs that he was supposed to be dispensing to inmates.

Douglas D. Steinke,of Rathdrum, Idaho, was fired in January after the thefts, mostly of painkillers, came to light. Steinke, 44, had worked as a state prison pharmacy technician at Airway Heights since 1995.

He pleaded guilty to five counts of acquiring and obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, misrepresentation, deception and subterfuge.

The five counts encompass separate thefts that began on May 15, 2002, and continued until Dec. 29, 2004, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Harrington. Court documents, including a plea agreement, say Steinke was involved with multiple thefts, but he was only charged with five.

Steinke acknowledged stealing more than 22,000 tablets of hydrocodone, Lortab, diazepam, clonazepam and alprazolam, all of which are controlled prescription drugs.

Sentencing is set for Sept. 19.

– Bill Morlin

Mental health system passes

Spokane County’s public mental health system received a passing grade from state analysts this week, after failing a similar test in January.

The review, which still must be finalized, allows the county to maintain control of its mental health system, which serves 10,000 people a year in Eastern Washington.

A state official said that since January the county had worked on policy improvements and provided more detailed documentation of its programs.

“Their financial picture, as well, has changed quite a bit,” said Andy Toulon, manager of the proposal process for the Mental Health Division.

Last fall, voters approved a 0.1 percent sales tax increase to aid a mental health system facing a $7.5 million budget shortfall.

Six of the state’s 14 regional support networks – known as RSNs – initially failed the review mandated by the Washington Legislature.

Five passed the second review; the sixth merged with another RSN.

Benjamin Shors

Tags: RPS crash