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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: Former police chief Straub’s demise small sting to Condon

In the most shocking breakup since Kermit and Miss Piggy, Spokane Mayor David Condon has given the boot to Frank Straub, the same guy Condon handpicked for police chief over sound advice, logic and reason.

Three years ago the mayor told us Straub was the best thing since sliced brisket.

Today?

Straub’s a department wrecker due to his combative leadership, authoritative tactics, potty mouth and aggressive behavior.

Factor in the questionable transfers involving two women who were moved out of the SPD.

“It was clear that we needed to move in a direction, change management,” Condon said Tuesday in what was poetically dubbed as a “hastily called news conference.”

This is just the beginning. Bet on more ugliness coming out before this mess blows over.

Not that we want Frankie to go away mad.

Heck no. As an unsolicited parting gift from taxpayers, Straub is being transferred to the Rocco Treppiedi Suite inside the city attorney’s office.

Until the New Year, news reports say, Straub will continue to collect on his $180,000-a-year paycheck.

Spokane: Near Nature. Ever Foolish.

Nobody can say we weren’t warned.

Straub, we knew, had left a royal mess in Indianapolis as the city’s unpopular director of public safety.

Concerned Indy citizens told us over and over: Don’t make this poison pill your police chief.

If that wasn’t enough, a panel of 10 law enforcers determined that Straub was not the right guy for the gig.

“It was unanimous that none of the candidates fit the needs of the Spokane community,” noted panelist Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said afterward.

Oh, yeah. I seem to remember writing a few thousand words on this subject back then, too.

“The smart percentage play is to follow Ozzie’s advice,” I wrote. “Hire a search firm. Round up a new slate of applicants. Start the hell over.”

It would’ve been so easy.

Yet for reasons still unknown, Condon stuck to Straub tighter than a conjoined twin.

Rumors flew, naturally.

I never found much merit in one popular conspiracy linking Straub and Condon with the mayor’s old boss, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

That said, I also found the mayor’s happenstance tale about just running into Straub at some conference too simplistic for consumption.

For all I know the two met on match.com, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The saddest thing about the Rise and Fall of Straub is that once again, the SPD is in chaos due to mismanagement and lousy leadership.

And there’s only one person to blame.

Feeling the heat, mayor?

You should.

“This is a pivotal moment for the Condon regime,” I wrote in 2012. “Spokane residents are fed up hearing about SPD-related scandals and abuses of power.

“Hiring someone who has what it takes to fix the mess could make the mayor virtually bulletproof come re-election time.

“Hiring another dud could make Condon the next in Spokane’s long, long line of mayoral one-term wonders.”

So here we are, going on six weeks away from Condon’s attempt to become Spokane’s first two-term mayor since The Crescent sold spats.

Will the Curse of the One-Term Mayor strike again?

Despite all the above, the smart money still says no.

That’s because the smart money is locked up in Condon’s political war chest, some $345,000 and rising.

But his biggest advantage is having Shar Lichty for a “nopponent.”

Next time you see City Council president Ben Stuckart, check him out for bruises. They’re all from kicking himself for not getting into the mayor’s race.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.

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