Within a day of being ousted as Spokane’s planning director, Scott Chesney gained influential supporters both within and outside City Hall.
Walt Worthy, developer of the Grand Hotel Spokane being built downtown, and Dave Black, who brought Target to the South Hill, said separately that Chesney’s dismissal was unneeded and called for his reinstatement. Their support comes on the heels of that from Jim Frank, president of Greenstone Corp., which is developing Kendall Yards, and Ron Wells, who is renovating the Ridpath Hotel.
“He has helped me immeasurably with this current project,” Worthy said about Chesney’s role in the hotel. “That department has improved more under his guidance than you will ever know. I also ask that you reconsider your decision if that is possible.”
Black was more blunt.
“The guy is a get-it-done kind of guy,” he wrote in a text. “The reason he was fired better be a good one.”
Frank elaborated on the letter he wrote Wednesday, saying that Chesney was the “most competent planning director the city has had in 30 years.”
“There are large segments of the community that care about what’s happening in our urban neighborhoods, that care about encouraging investment in our community, that want to see Scott retained, and we’d like to get a meeting with the mayor to encourage it,” he said. “To throw that away, and the work (Chesney) has done and the bridges he has built away, it’s disgusting and discouraging.”
Late Thursday, Mayor David Condon scheduled a meeting for today with Frank and others to discuss Chesney’s dismissal.
City Council members and the city’s Plan Commission met Thursday afternoon for an already scheduled meeting, but discussion quickly turned to Chesney’s abrupt exit from his position, and the uncertainty concerning his dismissal. It is still unclear why Chesney was forced out of his job. City administrators say they cannot comment because it is a personnel matter.
Jan Quintrall, who oversaw Chesney as head of the Business and Developer Services Division, told council members that she will go into detail Monday regarding Chesney’s dismissal during an executive session, which is closed to the public.
Council President Ben Stuckart told her that any information regarding Chesney should be aired publicly considering the backlash the decision has received.
“If they can’t talk about it in the open, then I don’t want to hear about it,” he said later. “Government should be open and transparent.”
At the meeting, Stuckart unveiled a letter of recommendation he drafted for Chesney, which said that Chesney was “moving Spokane forward and (we) regret to see him leave City employment.”
All City Council members except Mike Fagan have signed the letter. Many members of the Plan Commission also signed, including President Dennis Dellwo, Vice President Brian McClatchey, Gail Prosser, John Dietzman, F.J. Dullanty and Evan Verduin.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” Prosser said about Chesney’s exit. “This is destructive to our community.”
Dullanty agreed, calling Chesney a “breath of fresh air.”
“My fear is we’re going to go back to where we were before,” he said.
Dellwo said he supported every effort directed toward reversing the mayor’s decision regarding Chesney.
Fagan praised Chesney as a planner but said he did not support Stuckart’s letter and did not want his name on it. He suggested that Chesney might have done something outside of work that led to his dismissal and cautioned the council to act slowly.
“There are two sides to a coin. There’s a professional life and there’s a private life. Sometimes one gets involved in the other,” he said, telling council members to “save some embarrassment” and wait to sign the letter until after Quintrall’s executive session.
Jason Wheaton, the retired former president of Greenstone, also spoke to the joint meeting.
“I must implore all leaders both in the public and private sectors to encourage a broad review of this decision,” he said, reading from notes. “We must come together to ensure that effective and progressive managers are encouraged, not dissuaded, to serve in public office.”
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