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Spokane unveils top ombudsman candidates

TUESDAY, MAY 19, 2009

Job recipient will oversee police actions

More than two years after former Mayor Dennis Hession announced support for a new job to oversee police actions, city leaders on Monday announced the top candidates to become Spokane’s first police ombudsman.

They are: Tony Betz, a retired FBI official now serving as an instructor at Texas A&M University; Tim Burns, neighborhood preservation officer for the city of Visalia, Calif., and a retired police officer; and Greg Weber, a Spokane attorney and former deputy director of the Washington attorney general’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

The City Council approved the creation of the ombudsman last year after questions arose about police conduct in several high-profile cases, including the death of Otto Zehm, a mentally ill janitor wrongly accused of robbery who died following a police confrontation in 2006.

Spokane residents can meet the candidates at three public forums later this month. Here’s more about the finalists:

•Betz, 60, retired from the FBI after 23 years. During his last five years with the agency, he was the assistant special agent in charge of the Baltimore office. He also was an inspector who investigated FBI misconduct and audited field divisions.

In 1995, Betz was suspended with pay during an investigation into FBI’s handling of the 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge in North Idaho. Almost a year after he was suspended, he was reinstated and cleared of wrongdoing, according to news reports at the time. “I was cleared completely,” Betz said in a phone interview Monday.

Betz said at Texas A&M he is developing college curriculum examining workplace and school violence. Betz also served as a police officer for four years in Pennsylvania.

•Burns, 55, retired in 1995 as a patrol officer after 22 years in the Los Gatos, Calif., Police Department.

After that, he worked as a painting contractor for a few years before implementing a code enforcement program in Hollister, Calif., he said in a phone interview Monday.

Burns is the neighborhood preservation manager for the city of Visalia.

•Weber, 42, served as a deputy prosecutor in Okanogan and Pierce counties after graduating from Gonzaga Law School in 1996. He joined the Washington state attorney general’s office in 2001. In 2003, he became the deputy director of the attorney general’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

He has been in private practice in Spokane since 2006. Last year, he came in third in a three-way primary for a Spokane County Superior Court judgeship.

Jonathan Brunt can be reached at or (509) 459-5442.

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