Three people will be interviewed next month for the vacant Spokane Valley City Council seat that was created by the death of Councilman Bob McCaslin. Seven people were considered during Tuesday’s council meeting after the eighth, longtime SCOPE volunteer John Baldwin, asked that his name be removed from consideration.
The council voted to interview retired school administrator Chuck Hafner, materials coordinator Steven Neill and IT system administrator Ben Wick. Both Wick and Neill were previously interviewed for the vacant council position recently filled by the appointment of former planning commissioner Arne Woodard. The interviews are scheduled for the May 10 council meeting.
Before the discussion began, however, Mayor Tom Towey announced that he was recusing himself because he has had a close working relationship with one of the candidates for two years. “I contributed to his campaign,” he said.
Hafner filed paperwork with the Public Disclosure Commission in February announcing his intention to run for an unspecified Spokane Valley council seat in November. Donation reports indicate that Towey gave $100 to Hafner’s campaign on March 21. Hafner was instrumental in organizing the Positive Change group that helped get four of the current council members elected.
Councilman Dean Grafos nominated Hafner for an interview. “He has contributed $100 to my re-election campaign but it hasn’t affected my nomination,” Grafos said.
In other business, the council heard a request from Alan Creach during the public comment period requesting that the council enact an ordinance that would forbid the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office from using unmarked cars. The Sheriff’s Office is under contract to provide law enforcement to Spokane Valley. Creach is the son of Scott Creach, who was shot and killed last August after a confrontation with a uniformed deputy in an unmarked patrol car.
Creach handed out copies of a state law (RCW 46.08.065) that he said specifies that all cars used for patrol purposes must be marked. “We have unmarked cars in use all the time,” he said.
The law Creach quoted states that publicly owned vehicles must be marked with letters or insignia of a certain height on each side. However, the law continues with several exemptions that seem to indicate police can use unmarked cars at will. It states: “This section shall not apply to vehicles of a sheriff’s office, local police department, or any vehicles used by local peace officers under public authority for special undercover or confidential investigative purposes.”
Councilman Bill Gothmann said that he had read the law and did not believe it was a legitimate issue. “That is my personal opinion,” he said. “The Sheriff is welcome to put an unmarked car on my property any time.”
Councilman Arne Woodard noted that his son is a police officer and was recently involved in a shooting incident that he survived because of his quick reaction. “He was fired on by a high powered rifle,” Woodard said. “I’d like you to think of our young men and women out there patrolling.”