Clark: Condon needs to know when to fold ’em in chief search

SUNDAY, AUG. 5, 2012

A few years ago I made some extra dough moonlighting as the on-air reporter for Northern Quest Casino’s televised poker tournaments.

It was a great gig while it lasted. Not just because of the loot, but I grew to love watching the games, especially the high drama of “all in,” where a poker player will wager every last chip in a single bet.

Sometimes the move was motivated by desperation or as a bluff designed to scare off opponents and capture the pot.

Other times, though, the player was willing to risk it all because he had the cards.

Or at least he thought he did.

Many a poker player has been undone by the deluded sense of power.

I bring this up because it reminds me of the high-stakes game Mayor David Condon is playing in his quest to find a chief who will transform the ailing Spokane Police Department into something citizens can again be proud of.

After interviewing the finalists the other day, a panel of 10 law enforcers came to a conclusion: Fold.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, a panelist and arguably the most popular sheriff to ever hold the position, believes Spokane can do better than the last applicants standing: Daniel Mahoney, commanding officer of the Ingleside Police Station near San Francisco, and Frank Straub, the Indianapolis director of public safety.

“It was unanimous,” observed Knezovich, “that none of the candidates fit the needs of the Spokane community.”

I can’t agree more.

Nothing about Straub or Mahoney shouts “Hire me. I’m The One!”

In poker terms they’re a pair of threes.

The smart percentage play is to follow Ozzie’s advice: Hire a search firm. Round up a new slate of applicants.

Start the hell over.

Trouble is, the sheriff is an interested onlooker – just like the rest of us.

Condon, as I said before, is the guy making the bet. And Boy Mayor claims he is “very confident” that he can pick his chief from this shallow pool of two.

Really, David?

Why Condon doesn’t take the do-over is beyond me.

I know he’s planning to take chief-checking trips to Indy and the City by the Bay. Maybe he’s already bought plane tickets and is afraid he can’t get a refund.

Well, here’s one thing I do know: This is a pivotal moment for the Condon regime.

Spokane residents are fed up hearing about SPD-related scandals and abuses of power.

Hiring someone who has what it takes to fix the mess could make the mayor virtually bulletproof come re-election time.

Hiring another dud could make Condon the next in Spokane’s long, long line of mayoral one-term wonders.

And so we wait.

Suspense is what makes a poker showdown so fascinating, I guess.

The aforementioned panelists are not the only ones who want the mayor to exercise caution in his search for a police leader.

Claudia, for example, believes Spokane needs a younger, more energetic chief and “not someone who’s just looking for that end-of-the-line job before they retire.”

The mayor, she adds, “should not be in a hurry to fill the position just to fill the position.”

Who’s Claudia, you ask?

She’s one of the readers who together mailed me $450 in food bank donations in order to receive a cool new “Spokane: These Things Happen” badge.

I made the offer ($5 or more to Second Harvest for a badge) last Sunday in the wake of Blair Ulring’s sudden withdrawal from the final four chief applicants.

The bailout came after this newspaper reported that two of the former Stockton, Calif., chief’s claimed college degrees were likely issued by a diploma mill.

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist made her now-famous “these things” remark in response to Ulring’s vanishing act.

Although she didn’t mean it that way, her words put a humorously dark and cynical spin on all the civic insanity we’ve had to put up with.

“Why wouldn’t it be These Things Happen after a chief of police lied about his diplomas,” wrote Chris in his request for a badge. “Heck, everything the city fails to do is a These Things Happen moment.”

Thanks, Chris. I couldn’t have said it better.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432

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