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Council OK, if unexcited, with finalists for chief

Wed., Aug. 22, 2012

Spokane City Council members aren’t overly enthusiastic about the two finalists picked to lead the Spokane Police Department, but they’re content with the choices.

Spokane Mayor David Condon is expected to name the city’s new police chief as early as this week. He will choose either Daniel Mahoney, the commanding officer of the Ingleside Police Station within the San Francisco Police Department, or Frank Straub, Indianapolis’ director of public safety.

City Council President Ben Stuckart said he agrees with Condon that both candidates are strong enough to be chief. No council member is recommending that he reopen the search to find a new pool of candidates, as did a panel of law enforcement professionals.

“The mayor can make a selection from the two he has,” said Councilman Mike Allen.

Only one council member, Mike Fagan, said he has a favorite among the finalists. Even so, Fagan said he remains open to either choice.

Fagan said he leans toward Mahoney because he has concerns about Straub’s commitment to protecting the Second Amendment based on statements Straub made in Indianapolis.

“We’re from the Inland Empire,” Fagan said. “We love our guns.”

In 2010, gun-rights advocates lobbied Indianapolis leaders against appointing Straub after he told the Indianapolis Star that “we have way too many guns on the street and way too many people that own guns.”

He also supported an attempt to extend a federal ban on semi-automatic rifles, according to the Star.

After his position became controversial, Straub clarified his stance, telling the newspaper: “If people follow the rules and regulations and get guns through those, they can own as many guns as they would like to own and have. I have no problem with that.”

He was appointed to the position on a 28-1 vote of Indianapolis’ City County Council.

Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin said she isn’t concerned about Straub’s position on gun control, since he would be charged with following laws, not making them.

She said she is unexcited about the choices, though she will support Condon’s pick.

“In a market like Spokane, we should have gotten a whole heck of a lot of applications,” McLaughlin said. “I was hoping that one would stand out over the others.”

Only 13 people applied to be chief.

McLaughlin said she is concerned that Mahoney has never been a chief or deputy chief.

David Campos, a city of San Francisco supervisor whose district includes Ingleside, said Mahoney was respected enough to be a finalist for San Francisco’s chief job last year. He said Mahoney is “very hands-on, very community oriented.”

“I’m not looking to lose him, either,” Campos said after suggesting that Mahoney is qualified to be a chief.

Councilman Jon Snyder criticized Condon’s administration for not providing City Council members with the finalists’ applications. City leaders released their resumes but not their answers to eight questions.

“I have not been allowed enough access to decide a favorite,” Snyder said.

He agreed with McLaughlin that the pool of candidates was surprisingly small.

“I never really understood why we didn’t get a single applicant from the state of Washington,” Snyder said.

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said Snyder’s desire to see the full applications was not passed on to the mayor’s office. Three council members who served on a committee to examine candidates saw the full applications.

“We certainly would have shared that information with Councilman Snyder” had the mayor known of the request, she said.

Councilwoman Amber Waldref said she also needs more information to pick a favorite. She said she doesn’t have “any red flags” about either finalist, though she said she is concerned about Straub’s inability to start in the job right away.

“We need somebody who’s ready to come on board,” Waldref said.

Both Straub and Mahoney would have to complete training through the Washington State Training Commission in order to be police chief, a certified peace officer position. Straub has never been a police officer or graduated from a police academy. He would need to complete the five-month police academy in Burien, Wash., or seek a waiver from the commission to be hired as police chief.

Mahoney graduated from police academy in California but would need to complete a nine-week online course to be certified in Washington.

Councilman Steve Salvatori said he’s not worried about “picking the wrong person” because both finalists are qualified.

“I’m pretty sure that we cast a wide enough net,” Salvatori said. “I’m OK with the two fish we got.”


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