September 29, 2012 in Washington Voices

Fire commissioner deemed not a resident

Auditor rules to cancel Nesbitt’s voter registration
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton ruled Wednesday that the voter registration of Spokane Valley Fire Department Commissioner Monte Nesbitt will be canceled because he does not live at the Spokane Valley address he listed.

Nesbitt, however, wasn’t present when Dalton announced her ruling. Typically a talkative man, Nesbitt was quiet and complained of feeling ill as Dalton deliberated. He was taken to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center where he remained for tests as of Thursday morning, said Valley Fire Commissioner Joe Dawson.

Dalton stressed that her authority was only to consider the validity of Nesbitt’s voter registration, not to rule as to his status as an elected official. “This is a very limited question with a very limited impact,” he said.

Don Kresse, president of Local 876 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, filed the challenge against Nesbitt. He argued that Nesbitt and his wife live in Cheney and pointed to Washington state law that requires fire commissioners to live in the district they serve. Nesbitt submitted his resignation in August, to be effective Dec. 31.

Kresse said the union became aware last year that Nesbitt was no longer living in Spokane Valley. During a commission retreat in June, Kresse said he “asked Mr. Nesbitt where he lived, point blank. … He didn’t really admit that he lived in Cheney at that time.”

Nesbitt has since said he is living in Cheney, but intended to move back to Spokane Valley after selling his wife’s Cheney home; the house never sold.

Kresse said filing the challenge was difficult because he considers himself a friend of Nesbitt, who was a firefighter with the department for decades before he retired and became a commissioner. “This has nothing to do with his voting record,” he said.

Nesbitt said he just wanted to finish serving out the year as a commissioner. “I’m not really contesting this,” he said.

His wife, Carolyn Green Nesbitt, said the couple married in January 2011 and put her home on the market. “The intent was to move into the Valley,” she said. “We just figured the house would sell and we’d find another place.”

Nesbitt kept an apartment in Spokane Valley for nine months after the wedding, she said. Nesbitt wasn’t registered to vote at that address but registered using his daughter’s address on 26th Avenue.

Dalton said there seemed to be no disputing the facts of the case. “There was a preponderance of evidence that Mr. Nesbitt does not reside at the 26th address,” she said. “He presented no evidence to counter the charges.”

Nesbitt cannot argue that his intent was to move back into the district because he did not take any action toward achieving that intent, Dalton said. “When it comes to intent, there must be action taken.”

After Dalton’s decision was announced, Kresse said he’s not sure what comes next. State law is clear that a fire commissioner must live inside the fire district he represents, Kresse said. “I fully expect the rest of the fire commissioners to take action,” he said.

The union will also be looking into whether Dalton’s decision would affect any of Nesbitt’s votes since he moved out of the district, he said. “We’ll be looking into that for some clarity,” he said.

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