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Friday, November 15, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane mayor defends departure of planning director

Spokane Mayor David Condon said Monday there was no possibility for Scott Chesney to return to City Hall after being pushed out of his job as the city’s planning director last week.

Making his first public comments on the matter, Condon said he’d met with developers who had questioned the decision that led to Chesney’s forced resignation but didn’t place undue weight on what they said to him. He also noted the “magnitude of interest” in Chesney’s abrupt departure from the city.

“I represent the entire city. Not a handful of developers,” Condon said. “The citizens need to know that I represent all of the citizens – neighborhoods and businesses and others – and want to make sure that we treat everybody fairly and equally. There are a handful of developers that are concerned because they’ve seen the positive outcomes (of the Condon administration). Is that because of one person? I assured them that there’s a big team in that area, nearly 70 people.”

Chesney was asked to resign last week, shocking City Council members and a group of influential developers, including Jim Frank, the CEO of Greenstone Corp. building Kendall Yards, and Walt Worthy, the Davenport Hotel owner behind the construction of the 15-story Grand Hotel Spokane rising adjacent to the Convention Center.

After emails questioning Chesney’s ouster became public, Condon agreed to meet Friday with six developers, including Frank.

At Monday’s news conference, Condon questioned why Chesney’s dismissal drew so much attention. “It is interesting to me to see the magnitude of interest in a single position,” he said. “I think we have to realize there hasn’t been this amount of interest when there’s been resignations in my cabinet before. There’s been interest in what’s happened but not the reasons why.

“Let’s face it. There have been many personnel changes. We’ve worked on creating an administrative organization that is responsive to our citizens.”

Aside attention from the media, Condon criticized the developers for speaking out on the issue, “to go in a way that they did rather than having an honest discussion.”

City officials, including Chesney’s supervisor and head of the Business and Development Services Division Jan Quintrall, have declined to comment on the reasons for Chesney’s departure, citing personnel confidentiality.

Quintrall, along with City Administrator Theresa Sanders and Tim Dunivant, the city’s budget director and head of risk management, discussed the reasoning for pushing out Chesney. Hired in 2011 by former Mayor Mary Verner, Chesney proved popular with developers and city leaders of all political stripes during his tenure. He lasted through the first three years of Condon’s administration.

The reasons behind Chesney’s dismissal given to council members Monday afternoon during a meeting closed to the public left council members unmoved.

After the meeting, Councilman Mike Allen said he still thought Chesney was a good planning director but accepted Condon’s decision.

“I have a much better understanding now of all that went into the decision. I have a lot of respect for Scott and I wish him well,” he said.

Councilwoman Amber Waldref called Chesney’s departure in the midst of the multiple high-profile projects “bad timing” and said she understood why developers felt the move was “unsettling because they’ll have to build new relationships with whoever comes next.”

“It is what it is,” Waldref said.

Council President Ben Stuckart, who wrote a letter of recommendation for Chesney to potential employers last week that was signed by most council members and many members of the city’s Plan Commission, said he was unmoved by what he heard in the closed-door meeting.

“After my executive session with the administration about Scott Chesney, I stand by my recommendation 100 percent” to rehire him, Stuckart said.

Chesney might need the letter. Condon said there was no chance he’ll return to city employment.

“There will be no job offer,” he said.

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