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Tuesday, January 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

City, county shaping new justice job

Leaders from the city of Spokane and Spokane County are putting the finishing touches on a job description for the person who will head reform of the region’s criminal justice system, from the technology used in courts to the way repeat offenders are screened upon arrest.

Among the issues that still need to be sorted is who will pay the salary of Spokane County’s criminal justice coordinator, expected to be between $105,000 and $115,000 annually. That person’s duties will require coordination with city and county courts, the prosecuting and defense attorney’s offices, the Sheriff’s Office and Police Department, the Spokane County Jail and all of the regional governments.

“This person’s going to need a lot of diplomacy,” Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke said at a recent meeting of the panel that will ultimately hire the coordinator. Sitting on that committee are Mielke and fellow County Commissioner Shelly O’Quinn; Spokane Mayor David Condon; City Council President Ben Stuckart; and Spokane Superior Court judges Sam Cozza and Maryann Moreno.

The group is proposing a hiring process similar to that used for the Spokane police chief. A nationwide search will likely end in a full day of panel interviews with the hiring committee, Spokane area law enforcement and advocacy groups including Smart Justice and the NAACP.

“What a day,” Moreno said when the interview process was discussed, amounting to what some called a “gantlet.”

Officials also are discussing whom the coordinator will report to. The hire will be a county employee but responsible for overseeing reforms in the City of Spokane, as well as Spokane Valley and elsewhere. The reforms were outlined in the “Blueprint for Reform” that was issued by a different three-member advisory body last year.

O’Quinn, the county commissioner, said the job description and organizational structure should be meticulously defined to avoid potential confusion and bureaucratic red tape.

“We’ve created some serious problems” for employees who serve in county and city roles, she said.

A likely payment scenario would have county and city coffers each paying half the hire’s salary. The county set aside the full amount for the coordinator’s salary in its 2015 budget as a precaution; but Stuckart and Condon said there should be no issues working the roughly $55,000 cost into their plans for city spending next year.

“We will fund the position,” Stuckart told the group.

The full Spokane County Law and Justice Council, resurrected in May from the defunct Confined Population Management and Review Board, is splitting into committees to address aging case management technology, a new risk assessment aimed at keeping repeat offenders off the street and addressing facility needs, up to and including a new county jail.

The hired coordinator would replace Jackie Van Wormer, a Washington State University criminal justice professor who is under a yearlong contract to coordinate the county’s criminal justice reform efforts.

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