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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Infighting jeopardizes Spokane immigration ballot initiative

Petitioners hoping to reverse Spokane’s policy prohibiting police from questioning whether someone is in the country illegally have collected enough signatures to put the issue before voters.

But voters may not get a chance to weigh in.

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart is advising the City Council to not place the initiative on the ballot because the woman who filed it is now opposing the effort. Even so, other supporters collected the signatures and submitted them to City Hall well within the deadline to make the November 2017 ballot.

“The situation is that the petitioner, who was Jackie Murray, in writing twice, has asked us to not move forward on the initiative,” Stuckart said.

Stuckart said he spoke to the city attorney and policy adviser. They both recommended the council do nothing. Stuckart said city code was unclear about how to proceed.

Council members say by not acting to put the measure on the ballot, supporters can file a lawsuit against the city, thus letting a judge decide if the initiative moves ahead.

In addition to withdrawing her support of the initiative, Murray filed an ethics complaint against Councilman Mike Fagan on Dec. 30. She alleges in the complaint that Fagan and the anti-immigration group Respect Washington used her as a pawn.

“The petition was already set up and the players involved were just waiting for somebody with ‘working class’ status and of the proper ‘ethnic background’ to use,” Murray writes in the complaint. “I find this unethical. I was tricked into doing a petition, which I was loath to do by subterfuge and deceit.”

Fagan said he was not worried about the ethics complaint and said all he did was connect Murray with Respect Washington.

“Jackie Murray seems to be under some heavy stress, and that is causing her to react irrationally,” Fagan said.

Fagan disagrees with Stuckart’s recommendation. He said Murray withdrawing her support shouldn’t affect whether the initiative is placed on the ballot.

“In the end I would say let the voters decide,” Fagan said. “What is the liberal majority afraid of?”

Stuckart said there is some precedent for not acting. After the immigration initiative language was approved by the city, Murray and Stuckart contend that initiative organizers changed the language to say some council members “voted for Spokane to become a sanctuary for illegal aliens.”

City code wasn’t clear how to deal with the changed language, Stuckart said, so the council stayed silent.

“We think it’s invalid,” Stuckart said of the new initiative language.

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