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Spokane mayoral candidate Lichty files ethics complaint in police chief’s ouster

UPDATED: Mon., Oct. 12, 2015

Spokane mayoral hopeful Shar Lichty filed an ethics complaint Monday against two high-ranking city employees alleging they gave false information in the lead-up to police Chief Frank Straub’s ouster last month.

Lichty’s claims against two of Mayor David Condon’s Cabinet members, City Administrator Theresa Sanders and Brian Coddington, the mayor’s spokesman, allege the pair violated the portion of the city’s ethics code prohibiting acts of “moral turpitude and dishonesty.”

City ordinances do not define these terms, leaving them open for interpretation by a six-member Ethics Commission that must issue findings within 60 days of the filing.

Lichty alleges Sanders, who serves at the pleasure of Condon and oversees nine city departments, provided false information when answering questions from Spokesman-Review reporter Nicholas Deshais about the transfer of police spokeswoman Monique Cotton to the Parks Department. Sanders initially denied Cotton’s move was due to a fractured working relationship with Straub but later said there were issues between the two.

Sanders did not respond to calls for comment Monday.

Lichty’s complaint against Coddington alleges misdirection in how Straub’s ouster was portrayed to the public. A $4 million complaint against the city last week from Straub contradicted a statement Coddington made to Deshais on the day Straub’s departure was announced. Coddington said he was unaware of plans to remove Straub, though a draft news release had already been circulated in City Hall for at least a day, according to Straub’s complaint.

Sanders and Coddington later said they were constrained by their inability to comment on personnel matters when answering questions about Cotton and Straub.

On Monday, Coddington did not comment on the specific allegations in the complaint.

“Information in situations evolve, and we do our best to provide the most accurate current information,” he said. “We’ll let the ethics commission evaluate the complaint.”

Lichty acknowledged Monday that the timing of the complaint benefited her campaign against Condon but said she was motivated by correcting the public record and holding city officials accountable.

“I don’t see the mayor doing that, so I’m happy to do his job for him,” Lichty said.

The election is three weeks away. Lichty said she didn’t expect the ethics complaint to be resolved by then.

At a news conference Monday afternoon, Lichty was noncommittal on what discipline Coddington and Sanders should receive if they’re found to have violated the city’s ethics code.

“I’m not one to immediately fire somebody,” she said.

But, she added, the pair will not have a position in her administration if she is elected.

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