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Vote ires council president

Fri., Oct. 9, 2009

Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan accused four colleagues Thursday of lying, back-stabbing and maneuvering to weaken his authority while he was out of town. He promised to return next week, “bringing hell with me.”

Councilman Al French insisted that it was Shogan who was out of line, breaking existing council rules on “mutual respect” and blocking proposals that the council majority supports by not including those proposals on meeting agendas.

“Had Mr. Shogan been in town, everything that happened today would have still happened,” he said.

Thursday’s meeting was originally set so the council to hear the Police Department’s plans for some $2 million in budget cuts next year. But on Wednesday the council added a special session to discuss changes in the council’s rules of procedure, which govern, among other things, how the council president runs meetings and how council members’ legislative assistants are hired and fired.

Shogan is on vacation in New England and could easily have skipped a discussion of the police budget. But he called City Hall to run the special meeting by telephone.

Clearly, he was angry, calling French and three other council members who support putting the rules changes on the agenda – Steve Corker, Mike Allen and Nancy McLaughlin – a “gang of four.”

“This isn’t a life-or-death issue that has to get on the agenda right away,” he said before castigating each personally. He saved the most vitriol for French: “You’ve lied to me. You’ve prevaricated, acted behind my back, stabbed me in the back.”

None of the council members commented before voting 4-3 to put the proposed changes onto the agenda for Monday and up for public discussion in two weeks. Shogan and Councilmen Bob Apple and Richard Rush voted no, and after making sure the vote was recorded, Shogan called for adjournment: “I do intend to come back, and to quote Wyatt Earp, ‘I’m bringing hell with me.’ I’m out of here.”

French later defended the move to push the changes into the process. Four council members support the changes, which have been under discussion since last year, he said. Corker will be gone for the next two weeks and waiting for Corker’s return would mean discussing the changes in the midst of budget discussions, he said: “The only action we did was start the process.”

By blocking the proposal with majority support, Shogan was essentially vetoing it, French contended, and council rules say the president doesn’t have a veto. Those rules also call for council members to maintain respect for one another, the city and the staff, he said.

Shogan violated that rule by calling him and others liars, French said. “The only one throwing arrows today was the president.”

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