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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Condon asks Police Guild for contract changes

Spokane Mayor David Condon is heeding the advice of Spokane City Council members who have pushed him to reopen contract negotiations with the Spokane Police Guild.

The mayor and guild agreed to a tentative four-year labor contract last fall, but that deal was rejected by the City Council in November. It was nearly rejected a second time in December before the council opted to delay a vote until Feb. 3.

City officials confirmed this week that administrators have sent proposed changes to the proposed contract to the mediator working with the city and guild. Condon met in a private session with the City Council on Monday to talk about negotiations with the guild. City spokesman Brian Coddington said he could not provide details on the city’s most recent proposal.

Early this year, City Council President Ben Stuckart sent a letter to Condon urging him to reopen negotiations to spare the council from rejecting the deal again.

At issue is the level of police oversight allowed in the contract.

Voters last year changed the City Charter to strengthen the city’s police ombudsman and to give the ombudsman the right to investigate alleged officer misconduct separately from the police department’s own investigation.

But the deal between Condon and the guild doesn’t provide that right. Condon has proposed to instead allow a citizen advisory board to hire an independent investigator when the board is unhappy with the police department’s internal investigation of officer misconduct. Spokane Police Guild President John Gately appeared with the mayor at a news conference in December to talk about the plan, but he declined to endorse it.

City Council members remain opposed to the contract for two reasons.

A group of council members likely could accept Condon’s proposal if the guild would agree to it in the contract. This would end the prospect of getting sued by the guild, though it would open the possibility of a lawsuit from the Center for Justice, which has threatened to sue if the city doesn’t live up to the City Charter.

Another group of council members says the city should hold out for a deal with the guild that lives up to what the citizens voted for. The guild’s long opposition to independent oversight, however, makes this unlikely. That means the contract would be settled by an arbitrator, and it’s unclear how the ombudsman’s oversight role would be settled if the city and guild can’t agree and the deal is settled in arbitration.

Jonathan Brunt
Jonathan Brunt joined The Spokesman-Review in 2004. He is the government editor. He previously was a reporter who covered Spokane City Hall, Spokane County government and public safety.

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