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Deaf community protests firing of official with Nexus Inland Northwest

UPDATED: Mon., Oct. 23, 2017, 10:07 p.m.

Hearing-impared people rally on the corner of Howard Street and Boone Avenue, Monday in Spokane to bring back ousted Nexus Inland Northwest executive director Bart Williams. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Hearing-impared people rally on the corner of Howard Street and Boone Avenue, Monday in Spokane to bring back ousted Nexus Inland Northwest executive director Bart Williams. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Members of Spokane’s deaf and hard of hearing community protested the firing of a beloved executive director at a local nonprofit on Monday.

Standing in the autumn sun, about a dozen people hoisted signs calling for the reinstatement of Bart Williams, who was let go at Nexus Inland Northwest recently. They also raised posters demanding the firing of Nexus’ governing board, who they deemed to be unfit.

“It appears that the board does not care for the local deaf,” said protest organizer Twina Paulus through an interpreter. “We believe there needs to be a brand new board.”

Paulus, who used to work for the nonprofit as an office assistant, said she was let go recently due to a lack of funding. She said the board didn’t explore avenues that would have brought in additional revenue and allowed her to keep her job.

The nonprofit was started in Spokane in 1982, and since then, has provided services to the deaf and hard of hearing, such as interpreter services, employment resources, translation and technology, in 10 counties across Washington, according to the nonprofit’s website. The executive director position Williams was fired from on Oct. 10 remains vacant.

Paulus said if the board resigns, they plan to fill the positions with qualified applicants who are deaf and better mirror the community they serve.

“We want to come back to work and have a new board,” she said. “Fresh start.”

Dan Danielson, who was also protesting Monday, said the community would protest until their demands are met.

“As long as the board is here, we will come,” he said through an interpreter.