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Dean Grafos resigns from Spokane Valley City Council, questioning ideology of remaining members

FILE – Dean Grafos delivers the 2015 State of the City address, May 6, 2015, at the Spokane Valley Mall. Grafos was the city’s mayor at the time. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE – Dean Grafos delivers the 2015 State of the City address, May 6, 2015, at the Spokane Valley Mall. Grafos was the city’s mayor at the time. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane Valley City Councilman Dean Grafos is resigning effective Monday.

Grafos, who won a second term on the council when he ran unopposed in November, made the announcement Wednesday afternoon.

He said he’s leaving because it’s become impossible to have a rational and meaningful conversation with the majority on the council.

“These people are blinded by their ideology and surrounding themselves with militia-type people and anti-Ozzie Knezovich deputies and their supporters,” Grafos said about Mayor Rod Higgins, Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard and city councilmen Ed Pace and Sam Wood.

Grafos, the city’s former mayor, said he considers the February firing of City Manager Mike Jackson illegal, and he is frustrated that he can’t get an investigation of the matter on the council’s agenda.

The city council’s agenda is largely put together by Higgins and Woodard.

“You can’t reason with those guys,” Grafos said.

Higgins said Wednesday afternoon that he was surprised to hear of Grafos’ resignation.

Because the city is still negotiating with Jackson about the terms of his dismissal, it would be inappropriate for the city council to talk about an investigation, Higgins said.

“I thought we agreed about the situation with Mike Jackson – apparently not,” Higgins said.

He added that Grafos has been adversarial since last year when his proposal to limit truck parking on residential streets was turned down.

“We started out on the same page but we didn’t end up there,” Higgins said.

Councilman Chuck Hafner said he doesn’t blame Grafos for leaving.

“I have some big decisions to make now myself,” said Hafner, who frequently sides with Grafos in council votes. “I will be alone on the council once Bill Gothmann leaves.”

Gothmann was appointed to a temporary term on the council when council member Bill Bates went on extended medical leave, but that term ends in June and Gothmann said he’s not interested in an extension. The council will seek a new replacement for Bates at that time.

Hafner calls the firing of Jackson “an asinine thing” done by Higgins and Woodard.

“We are not involved in any activities of the council,” Hafner said of him and Grafos. “We are left completely out of the picture.”

Pace said he was surprised by Grafos’ resignation but otherwise declined comment.

Woodard, who served as deputy mayor under Grafos, called Grafos’ resignation a shock.

“I knew he was unhappy, we are all unhappy right now,” Woodard said, referring to the strife on the council.

“I haven’t had a meaningful conversation with Dean in the last month,” Woodard said.

Woodard usually votes with the council majority, but said his ideology hasn’t changed since he served as Grafos’ deputy mayor.

“I’m exactly the same as I’ve always been,” Woodard said.

Grafos and Hafner haven’t attended council executive sessions since Jackson was fired.

Woodard said that he believes his fellow council members have a responsibility to participate in the executive sessions.

“They should be there,” Woodard said.

Hafner and Grafos both said they decided to stay away from the executive sessions so they could remain free to talk about how Jackson’s firing was handled.

Hafner, who has been involved in boards and commissions for a lifetime, said this is the ugliest situation he’s ever been a part of.

“They have an agenda and I have no idea what it is,” Hafner said. “The credibility gap gets wider and wider. There is no way we can sit down and have a conversation.”

Grafos’ replacement will be selected by the remaining members of city council.

“ If I stay on the council and keep pushing back then it’s going to look like it’s about me,” Grafos said. “It’s not about me. It’s about the future of the city.”

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