A proposal to shift control of the city’s neighborhood police substations to the newly formed non-profit group Spokane C.O.P.S. got the City Council’s OK Monday.
The council voted 6-0 to shift the $60,000 earmarked in the police department’s budget for communityoriented policing to the non-profit group.
“We think this is the way to go,” said Police Chief Terry Mangan.
Councilman Chris Anderson abstained, saying “I can’t in good conscience vote no and I can’t in good conscience vote yes.”
Supporters lauded the non-profit plan as a way to make it easier for neighborhood substations to apply for state and federal money, as well as increase community participation and private donations.
The non-profit can “apply for - and bring in - funds that will enhance community-policing efforts in this city,” Mangan said.
The plan recently has drawn criticism because police and city administrators, as well as the non-profit’s board of directors, have recommended that Cheryl Steele be named the agency’s project coordinator.
Steele has worked as the city’s community-policing coordinator since May 1994. The Civil Service Commission last month told Mangan to fire Steele because she’d been on the city’s payroll more than three years as a temporary-seasonal employee. She did part-time clerical work for most of that three-year period.
As the city’s community-policing coordinator, Steele earned $24,420 last year. Her last day with the city is Friday.
Steele - often considered the champion of the city’s community policing efforts - is largely responsible for the program’s national reputation, Mangan said.
“We have been very fortunate having Cheryl Steele work with us,” he said. “She is recognized nationally for this program.”
Anderson, the Civil Service Commission and the city employees union say the push to hire Steele runs afoul of the city’s fair-hiring policies.
Anderson said that while he “commended Cheryl Steele for all she’s done,” he objected to “the hiring of a preselected individual without any kind of open process.
“It seems to be kind of an end run on the process,” said Ken Withey, a frequent council critic.
The non-profit group’s board - made up of three police department employees and four citizens - gets the final say on the coordinator, who would make about $40,000 a year plus benefits.
The board, which plans to expand by at least two more citizens, is recommending Steele be named coordinator.
“What we have in the city of Spokane that is so unique and so humanly special is Cheryl Steele,” said Michael Erp, a board member.
Councilman Orville Barnes said that he understood concerns about the plan, but that he considered it a way of downsizing government - an idea he supports.
Besides, he said, he’d hate to think the city “misspent thousands of dollars on training Cheryl Steele” only to let her get away.
In other business the council:
Approved buying the assets of Quinn’s Wheels Rentals & Sales.
Council members voted unanimously to pay owner Greg Yost $35,000 for the bikes, strollers, wheelchairs and three-wheel carts in his Riverfront Park business.
In January, the City Council turned down a proposal to buy the bicycle business and sent it back to the Park Board for reconsideration.
The Park Board modified the plan, suggesting that the city buy only the assets and not the business - a plan the council accepted.
This proposal has the same price as the old, but the city won’t assume any of the business’s outstanding liabilities, said Anderson, who opposed the previous plan but supports the new one.
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