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Wednesday, October 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Head planner Chesney resigns from Spokane

Scott Chesney, Spokane’s planning director since 2011, abruptly left the city Wednesday for unknown reasons.

“I resigned due to the mayor’s loss of confidence in me,” Chesney said in a text message. “I respect his choice.”

Jan Quintrall, head of the city’s Business and Development Services Division who Chesney worked under, said she could not comment on his dismissal.

In a statement, Quintrall said, “We appreciate Scott’s service to the citizens of this community and his contributions to the City."

Heather Lowe, the city’s human resources director, also would not comment, saying the issue was an “open personnel matter.”

Louis Meuler has been appointed interim planning director while the city does a national search for his replacement.

Council President Ben Stuckart, who heard about the matter in a terse email from Quintrall, said he was “very upset for the city. This is a loss.”

He said he was unsure why Chesney was let go.

“I’m upset and I don’t know a single developer who would disagree with me,” he said. “Scott was moving the city in the right direction.”

Councilman Mike Allen said he was unaware why Chesney was forced out of the city.

"I was a fan of Scott Chesney. He came into an environment where the answers had historically been no. He found ways to say yes," Allen said. "Every time I’ve dealt with him, he’s been solid."

Councilman Mike Fagan said he was "a little surprised" when he heard about Chesney's departure.

"Every interaction I’ve had with Scott has been extremely positive," he said. "A lot of our neighborhoods in District 1 were enamored with Scott. If somebody called him, boom, he’s just like me, he’s in your face. He’s just one of them kind of guys.He was great. He was great to deal with."

Chesney was hired by Mayor Mary Verner in 2011. Before that he was the director of planning and development for El Mirage, Arizona. Chesney was the top choice of an advisory committee of Spokane planning staff. His starting salary was $98,554 a year, and he earned $102,502.

When he was hired, Chesney had worked in redevelopment planning and implementation for 20 years, in part as the director of community development in Surprise, Arizona and as principal for his own urban planning consulting firm, Chesney & Associates.

Chesney made headlines when he was first hired after he admitted violating Surprise, Arizona, city policy by using city credit cards to buy alcohol for himself and staff, and failed to provide itemized receipts for reimbursement, the Arizona Republic reported after Chesney resigned in November 2007. He told the paper that he bought drinks with a city credit card to reward staff for hard work.

Chesney, who reimbursed the city for improper use of the card, said the purchases were “very occasional occurrences,” the newspaper reported.

“He was the first to disclose it,” Verner told The Spokesman-Review when asked if Spokane officials were aware of the controversy.

Before Chesney was brought on, JoAnne Wright has served as interim planning director since Oct. 2009, when then-planning director Leroy Eadie was asked to serve as interim director of the city’s Parks & Recreation Department, a position he now holds permanently.

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Nicholas Deshais
Joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He is the urban issues reporter, covering transportation, housing, development and other issues affecting the city. He also writes the Getting There transportation column and The Dirt, a roundup of construction projects, new businesses and expansions. He previously covered Spokane City Hall.

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