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Friday, September 25, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Spokane weighs residency mandate for appointments

Two months after City Council members forced the withdrawal of a controversial nomination to the Spokane Airport Board, they will consider new rules requiring all city board appointees to live within city limits.

In late November, Mayor David Condon informed the City Council that he was nominating Hoyt “Larry” Larison, former CEO of Columbia Paints and Coatings, to serve on the Spokane Airport Board.

City Councilman Mike Allen, who proposed the new rule, said he didn’t realize nonresidents could be appointed to represent the city on dozens of boards until Condon nominated Larison, who lives north of the city. When he recommended Larison, Condon argued that it’s hard to find city residents to fill some positions.

“We have over 200,000 residents of the city of Spokane,” Allen said. “I think we can find enough qualified individuals for these boards.”

On Monday, the Spokane City Council will consider a new rule requiring city residency for nominees appointed by the council to serve on city boards or to be city representatives on governing boards of agencies such as Spokane International Airport.  The proposal has support from conservatives and liberals on the council.

Condon said Friday he’s working with the council to maintain some exceptions, but he likely will back the ordinance. A new proposal, for instance, would allow nonresidents currently on boards to remain and serve a second term. It also specifies that the rule doesn’t apply to board positions that don’t have to be approved by the City Council.

Councilman Steve Salvatori said that as long as some exceptions are allowed, he likely would vote for the requirement.

Councilman Jon Snyder said city boards should be filled by city residents.

“I want to keep all the exceptions as narrow as possible,” he said. 

But Councilman Mike Fagan noted that many neighborhood groups, including Hillyard committees on which he’s served, open membership to nonresidents. 

“If you do have an interest in what goes on in the city of Spokane and you’re willing to volunteer your time, those are two very important qualities,” Fagan said.

Larison’s nomination also sparked controversy because he contributed $1,800, the maximum allowed, to Condon’s 2015 re-election bid one day before he applied to serve on the airport board. Condon and Larison have said the timing was coincidental and that he was picked because of his finance and business background. 

Condon picked Larison over former Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin, who served on the airport board as a City Council representative and applied for the open seat held by David Clack, who announced that he would resign a year early. McLaughlin left the City Council at the end of the year as a result of term limits.

McLaughlin, a conservative, likely would have won unanimous support even from the more liberal council that took office in January. But Condon said he was looking for someone with finance or construction experience and that McLaughlin’s finance experience in government isn’t what the airport needs.

“The experience she brings as an elected official is significant, but there are other elected officials on the board,” Condon said in an interview Friday.

After most council members said they wouldn’t support Larison’s nomination to the board, Larison withdrew his application. Since then, Clack, former chairman of Old National Bank, has requested to withdraw his resignation. The City Council on Monday will consider an appointment allowing Clack to serve through the end of the year.

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