April 10, 2012 in City

Condon dismisses building official

Wizner termination urged by Quintrall
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Terminations

Administrators terminated by Spokane Mayor David Condon:

• City Administrator Ted Danek

• Public Works Director Dave Mandyke

• General Administration Director Dorothy Webster

• City Attorney Howard Delaney

• Building Official Joe Wizner

Another longtime Spokane City Hall administrator has been fired by Spokane Mayor David Condon.

Condon advised Building Official Joe Wizner within the last few weeks that he was being dismissed, though Wizner has been allowed to keep his position until May 2.

City leaders acknowledged Monday that Wizner had been let go.

Wizner, 56, started as a part-time building inspector in 1989 and oversees the city’s enforcement of building codes. He was hired full time in 1990 and became the building official in 1993. He earned about $101,500 last year.

He is the fifth high-level administrator or department director let go since Condon took office slightly more than 100 days ago.

Condon said he made the decision based on a recommendation of Jan Quintrall, the director of business and developer services, whom he hired to oversee the city’s building, planning, economic development and engineering departments.

City Administrator Theresa Sanders said two city employees qualified to perform Wizner’s duties will advise Quintrall, who likely will be the interim building official.

Sanders said the change was made so that Quintrall could build her team.

“She made a determination that she’s looking for innovative and decisive leadership in that role, and Mr. Wizner was not the best fit,” Sanders said. “Jan’s role is to be the face to the business and development community, listen to their needs, and, if necessary, make dramatic changes to support the needs of the community.”

Sanders praised Wizner for his ability to solve “particularly prickly challenges” as a result of his demeanor and ability to work with other people.

Wizner said he was disappointed by the decision but that as an at-will administrator his employment is at the prerogative of the mayor. He has the right to bump into a lower-level building position but has opted to leave the city’s employment.

“I’m looking at it as an opportunity to do something different,” said Wizner, who said he was treated with respect in how he was let go. “I’ve been here 23 years. Maybe it is time for a little change.”

Wizner said he has worked to make the permitting process as efficient as possible without sacrificing the enforcement of the law.

“What we’re really here for is to make sure that we have very, very safe buildings,” he said.

City Councilman Jon Snyder said Wizner’s departure leaves less experience at City Hall.

“That’s more institutional knowledge that we’ve lost,” he said, noting other recent staffing decisions made by the mayor.

City Councilman Mike Allen said he wasn’t prepared to offer an assessment of Wizner, but that change is needed within the department.

Quintrall said she will reorganize her departments to “better respond to our customers.” Part of her review is consideration of privatization, though she said the duties of the building official will remain with a city worker. She said she also will examine merging departments, such as building and planning, and will study models in other city governments.

Merging Spokane County’s planning and building departments in 1995 and again in 2003 after they had been split four years before sparked significant controversy.

Former Spokane County Commissioner Bonnie Mager said the city should keep its building and planning departments separate. She said the county’s merger put an emphasis on building at the expense of long-term planning and was partly responsible for decisions the county later acknowledged as incorrect, such as the rezoning of land without a public hearing and the allowance of a day care center in an airport crash zone.

She warned that the city ensure any shake-up of its building and planning departments be done in a way that ensures laws are enforced fairly and not tilted in favor of certain developers.

“They should be seeking the best for our whole community and not just our special interest groups,” Mager said.

Administrators said the city’s goal is improved services but not at the expense of fairness or building code. Sanders said there are important links to planning and building.

“I don’t see them in opposition,” she said.


There are five comments on this story. Click here to view comments >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email