March 26, 2013 in City

Doug Clark: Mayor building case for ‘condonminiums’

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Doug Clark
(Full-size photo)

So Boy Mayor wants to geld the city’s timer-tested Civil Service rules to make our City of Spocondon a happier place.

Oops.

Spokane, I meant.

I must’ve been projecting about what could happen if Mayor David Condon gets his wish to have more leeway in hiring the “best players” (wink-wink) for certain jobs at the police and fire departments.

And, no, I’m not holding a grudge about the recent police chief hire.

The only way to make sense out of Condon’s Frank Straub fixation is to chalk it up as a weird case of adult puppy love.

This Civil Service matter is an entirely different kettle of corn.

Mayor Condon, according to our news coverage, “simply wants to expand the number of workers he can hire without Civil Service review beyond the narrow flexibility already offered.”

Sounds harmless enough, huh?

Council President Ben Stuckart is such a spoilsport for bringing up what happened a dozen years ago at the Spokane County Commission as a relevant and cautionary tale.

Sure, I remember what happened.

Then-Commissioner Phil Harris put all three of his boys on the county payroll.

“That’s what Civil Service protects us against,” warned Stuckart in the front-page story.

That’s one way to look at it, Ben.

Another way is to accept the Harris Gene Pool Personnel Plan as a brilliant attempt to improve Spokane County efficiency.

By hiring his kids Harris didn’t have to waste any valuable commissioner time on bribing union bosses or threatening departmental supervisors.

When Harris wanted something done, all he had to do is call for a family dinner and give his lads their marching orders.

Spokane County would have been running like a Swiss timepiece if only Harris had fathered an Osmond-sized brood.

Nepotism always gets such a bum rap.

Same with cronyism.

I say, so what if Mayor Condon uses this new plan of his to give jobs to all his pals?

I’ve met the mayor.

He can’t have that many friends.

Plus some of America’s greatest criminal empires – Chicago, say – have risen to their grand stature thanks to the power of patronage and undisclosed bags of cash delivered surreptitiously through the back door of City Hall.

Not that I’d ever see that happening here.

But the desire to twist the Civil Service rules like a pretzel does show how badly Mayor Condon wants to leave his boot prints all over Spokane.

First, the mayor reportedly would promote separating the police and fire departments into divisions.

Then these divisions would each be segmented into a number of departments.

In my opinion, “condonminiums” would be a much catchier name for these divisional units.

This restructuring would give Mayor Condon the ability to hire up to 30 relatives and campaign workers, or maybe even more when nobody’s paying attention.

And once the fire and police departments are in order, well, who knows what Condon might try to fix next?

Could he find a way to bend the election rules and maybe increase a Spokane mayor’s first term to eight years?

Keep on trying to game the system and that may be Condon’s only shot at mayoral longevity.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or dougc@spokesman.com.

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