The River Park Square mall redevelopment was a complicated public-private partnership between the city of Spokane and the mall’s owners, the development companies run by what is now Cowles Co. that ended in lawsuits. Cowles Co., through various subsidiaries and affiliates, also owns The Spokesman-Review, KHQ-TV and the Journal of Business.
James McDevitt does not have a conflict of interest between the River Park Square project and his role as U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington, a state bar association panel ruled this month. A bar association disciplinary board dismissed a complaint filed in 2007 by former Spokane City Councilwoman Cherie Rodgers, who had claimed a conflict existed because McDevitt worked for a law firm involved in the downtown mall renovation before his appointment as the district’s top federal prosecutor. But bar association investigators said no conflict existed because McDevitt never represented a mall participant and the Department of Justice at the same time – which is how the conflict is defined in the rules of professional conduct – and he told the government his firm was a defendant in civil litigation over the mall when he was nominated.
Never again. That’s the message city leaders say they hope is sent with the ordinance approved unanimously Monday that outlaws some of the most controversial elements of the River Park Square mall renovation deal.
A former Spokane mayor and other critics of the River Park Square project are opposing the nomination of a local lawyer to be the next U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington because of his involvement in the mall renovation some 10 years ago.
A former mayor of Spokane and other critics of the River Park Square project are opposing the nomination of a local lawyer to be the next U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington. Spokane attorney Mike Ormsby continues to enjoy the support of Washington's senior U.S. senator, though.
An ordinance designed to prevent officials from entering into deals similar to the one that partnered the city with River Park Square in the late 1990s will be considered tonight by the Spokane City Council. The rules were proposed last year by Mayor Mary Verner.
Michael C. Ormsby, who won a political office when he was 18 and has spent ensuing years in public service positions, has been nominated to be the next U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington. The office of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., confirmed Friday that Ormsby’s name had been formally forwarded to the White House, where President Barack Obama would make the appointment.
Spokane city officials on Thursday turned over a packet of River Park Square documents they had previously labeled confidential. The records, which detail disputes among attorneys working for the city about the direction of the mall controversy and legal fees, were released in response to records requests filed by The Spokesman-Review in April.
The attorney who originally handled the city’s litigation over River Park Square wanted to accuse a former Spokane mayor and two City Council members of being part of a conspiracy to inflate the price of the mall’s garage. But those officials were never named in any lawsuit the city filed, and Seattle attorney O. Yale Lewis never could produce any proof to back up what he called “unavoidable conclusions” of that conspiracy in his correspondence with his replacement, Laurel Siddoway, and Mayor John Powers, who took office in 2001.
The office that investigates possible misconduct by U.S. attorneys has cleared Eastern Washington’s federal prosecutor of allegations leveled against him last year surrounding River Park Square. H. Marshall Jarrett, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, said U.S. Attorney James McDevitt disclosed “all relevant information” regarding his former firm’s connection to the mall project. There is no evidence that McDevitt interfered with any possible investigation into the mall’s financing, he added.
Mayor Mary Verner said a proposed ordinance aimed at preventing financial ordeals similar to the River Park Square deal should put an end to official city discussion of the controversial real estate project. "With the passage of this ordinance, I would feel that it's effectively closed," Verner said last week.