Mayor David Condon is expanding the city’s economic development effort with two new hires, including a political fundraiser.
Charlie Wolff, a commercial real estate broker, has joined Condon’s office full time as the new business development manager.
The mayor said Wolff will help in efforts to sell publicly owned land within the city. Dawn Sugasa, a fundraising consultant in the political campaigns of both Condon and the mayor’s former boss, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, has been hired as a consultant handling communication between City Hall and regional business leaders.
Wolff will earn a salary of $84,300 annually. Sugasa is serving on a six-month contract worth $6,000, plus expenses. Condon said the two combined are taking the place of former policy adviser Tyler Whitney, who left the mayor’s office in September and whose position was never filled.
“We wanted to make sure we had somebody on the team with a real estate background,” Condon said of Wolff in an interview Monday. He announced Wolff’s and Sugasa’s hiring in a weekly update address released last week by City Hall.
Whitney earned an annual salary of $87,767.
Sugasa was named as one of McMorris Rodgers’ political staffers at the center of an ethics complaint filed by a former employee against the congresswoman in July 2013. The complaint was not forwarded to a special panel for investigation after review by the House Ethics Committee for violation of rules separating campaign and political activities.
The complaint alleges Sugasa was one of two campaign staffers who went to Washington, D.C., in 2012 and worked with the congresswoman’s chief of staff to develop a campaign supporting McMorris Rodgers’ successful bid to chair the House Republican Conference. The Office for Congressional Ethics ruled blending “official resources and campaign resources” for the chairmanship campaign “may have violated House standards of conduct.”
The complaint was described by the congresswoman’s legal team as baseless accusations brought by a disgruntled former staffer.
In response to a question about the ethics complaint, Condon said Sugasa is a “private contractor” well-positioned through her work with the mayor’s annual “Our Town” charity gala to promote economic development in town.
“Many of the businesses, as we meet with them to support the effort of the gala, often say, ‘You know mayor, we’d like to look at expanding in your city,’ ” Condon said. “We’d like to build off some of those relationships.”
Condon said the ethics complaint did not come up in conversations about the city job, which will be targeted specifically to economic development.
Condon said Sugasa already has lined up discussions with BNSF on real estate issues. He noted the rapidly changing business landscape in Spokane, with the recent sales of Avista Corp., Telect and PAML, and the need for his office to stay in communication with business leaders around the region.
Wolff has worked for SDS Realty as a commercial real estate broker. He has served on the board of directors for the HUB Sports Center and TedX Spokane, the local arm of a nonprofit that brings thinkers in different fields together to give brief lectures on big topics.
Condon said the city has been unsuccessful in finding a buyer for the Normandie complex, the sprawling former home of the city’s Streets Department, and is exploring options on the Bosch lot, where a new climbing gym has been proposed. The mayor said Wolff’s expertise would help in those efforts.
City Council President Ben Stuckart has been critical of the surface parking lots in downtown because they take up land that could be used for development. Stuckart said Wolff’s addition could be helpful in addressing that issue as well as the city’s other real estate needs.
“It will be good to have somebody like Charlie in there to work on that,” Stuckart said.
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