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County shifts funds for Fox contribution

Spokane County commissioners shifted the source of funding for The Fox theater this week, but their attorney insisted the original plan to take money from the county’s share of the hotel-motel tax was legal.

Deputy Prosecutor Jim Emacio, the county’s chief civil attorney, said the county has given some of that tax money to The Fox or the Spokane Symphony off and on since 1985. The amounts have ranged from $10,000 in the early years to a high of $22,000 in 1999.

Some members of the county’s Hotel-Motel Advisory Committee contended during a meeting Monday with commission Chairman Todd Mielke that giving county money to the Fox was illegal. “This is not the case,” Emacio said in a memo to commissioners. The legality of the payments had been reviewed.

Committee members’ comments came during a meeting to set the 2010 budget for the county’s share of the hotel-motel tax. Commissioners had planned to give $20,625 a year from that tax fund to The Fox for four years and a similar amount from the Historic Preservation Fund. When committee members asked whether it was proper to give money from the county’s share of the lodging taxes to The Fox, which primarily generates business for hotels and motels in the city of Spokane, Mielke said the board could take all the money from the preservation fund.

That’s what the board did Tuesday, although Emacio told commissioners it would be legal to do it the other way. Determination of what project or entity gets money often depends on who is on the advisory committee, he said.

“For example, at one time we had a member of the symphony on the committee,” he said in the memo.

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