Controversy over a proposed deal to rehire a Spokane police sergeant after he was fired for an off-duty drunken driving collision has focused attention on an often-misunderstood state agency involved in the settlement negotiations – the Washington Human Rights Commission. The deal called for the city of Spokane to rehire fired Sgt. Brad Thoma and purported to be mediated by the Human Rights Commission, based on a claim that the city failed to accommodate the officer’s disability of alcoholism. However, Sharon Ortiz, the commission’s executive director, said she had not signed off on the deal that had been brokered by an investigator in the commission’s Spokane office and that it would need further review.
Two female inmates escaped from the Geiger Corrections Center on Tuesday night, but were captured within an hour by law enforcement officers from several area agencies. Kathleen Stockton, 49, and Rachel A. Banks, 25, escaped the corrections center at about 7:20 p.m. by scaling a security fence, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.
Stevens County activists dressed in prison stripes recently were tossed out of Gonzaga University’s Cataldo Hall where Rick Steves, the travel writer and TV show host, was delivering a speech. Members of the November Coalition, a foundation dedicated to ending the drug war, had no gripe with Steves’ hotel recommendations, but rather with his public support for an initiative to reform Washington’s marijuana laws that the protesters say falls short of decriminalization.
Since 1985, the Union Gospel Mission has helped improve the vision of thousands of poor and uninsured people by dispensing donated eyeglasses at its weekly free vision clinic founded by the late optometrist and humanitarian Walt Michaelis. Every Thursday the clinic sees eight to 10 people “who could not get glasses any other way,” said Linda Bates, a volunteer at the Mission.
The ranking members of a U.S. Senate committee are seeking an investigation into how long it takes veterans to be seen by mental health professionals at Veterans Affairs medical facilities. Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., also have asked the inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs to find out whether the department is telling the truth about mental health care accessibility.
Goodwill Industries told parents this week that it will shut its child care center on Jan. 13, the latest closure among Spokane-area facilities struggling to fill vacancies due to high unemployment and state cuts in subsidies to working poor families. “Simply put, the need for child care has dropped significantly because many parents are out of work,” read a Nov. 28 letter from Goodwill CEO Clark Brekke to families with children in the nonprofit organization’s ABC Discovery Child Care Center.
Among budget cuts Washington state lawmakers are considering is eliminating a program that pays for the malpractice insurance of health care providers who volunteer to treat the poor at free and low-cost clinics. Though the state is struggling to close a $1.4 billion revenue shortfall, it is hard to imagine a more penny-wise and pound-foolish cut than eliminating Volunteer/Retired Provider Malpractice Insurance, say officials acquainted with the program.
The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office has identified the pedestrian killed last week when he was struck by a semitrailer truck. Larue Brown, 39, died of head, neck and chest injuries as a result of the Nov. 23 incident at Second Avenue and Thor Street in Spokane, according to a medical examiner’s spokeswoman.
Few people have more to give thanks for than Kimmi Halbrook, who served up a heaping helping of gratitude with every plate she prepared at the annual Union Gospel Mission dinner on Wednesday. “I just want to give back,” said Halbrook, a former drug addict who found redemption at the mission and is not ashamed to admit it. “The compassion they showed me I never experienced before, and now that I have, it’s my goal to share it with others.”