Spokane Mayor David Condon reconsidered his plan to sever the city’s ties with the police ombudsman next month, agreeing Monday to instead extend the employment contract through the end of the year.
City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said Condon made the decision following concerns expressed by City Council members and to “smooth the transition to an enhanced model of civilian oversight for police.”
“We are on track to enhance civilian oversight of the Spokane Police Department, and this new timeline will allow for greater discussion and thoughtfulness,” Condon said in prepared remarks. “I want to work with the Council and the community to develop the best path forward.”
A proposal offered during Monday night’s council meeting would ease the three-year limit, enabling the city to keep ombudsman Tim Burns on staff until the end of the year.
Condon was ready to cut ties with Burns “until we put some public pressure on him,” Council President Ben Stuckart said in an interview after a Public Safety Committee meeting earlier Monday.
Stuckart said during the meeting that Condon told him that he would be open to keeping Burns as ombudsman until city leaders can further explore oversight options.
“We want to appoint (Burns) until we have a permanent solution in place as far as oversight … so we don’t have a situation where we don’t have an ombudsman,” Stuckart said.
Feist said Condon is waiting for a recommendation from the Use of Force Commission on oversight, and he expects to name a new police chief by the end of the month.
The city also is negotiating a new contract with the Spokane Police Guild.
Councilman Jon Snyder, however, said none of those issues should hold up the city’s decision to retain Burns.
“I think we should just be renewing his contract for another three years,” Snyder said. “In my mind, it is all that more important to have somebody who knows the Spokane Police Department and also knows folks outside City Hall.
“This is not a position that benefits from high turnover. It benefits from continuity.”
Councilman Mike Fagan agreed with Snyder.