The state auditor’s office confirmed it has received six complaints about how the Spokane Valley City Council handled the firing of former city manager Mike Jackson and other City Council business.
Marc Mims, a software engineer who has lived in Spokane Valley since 1991, filed his complaint May 14.
Mims said he’s convinced that Jackson was telling the truth when he said a majority on the City Council made the decision to fire him and notified him before the rest of the council members heard anything about it.
“The majority appears to have been meeting in private,” Mims said. “I decided to file a complaint because I think it’s important to have that activity stopped.”
Mims said he follows local politics and usually gets involved in issues he feels passionate about.
He said he watches the council agenda online for issues he may want to comment on, so when the council adds an agenda point at the beginning of a meeting – which it did when Jackson was let go – it excludes him and others from knowing what will be debated.
“Local government works best when it’s transparent,” Mims said. “That’s not transparent.”
According to Spokane Valley’s governance manual, it is legal for the council to add agenda items at the beginning of its meetings.
“Still,” Mims said, “it’s a practice that leaves people with no opportunity for input because they don’t know what’s going to be on the agenda.”
Former Spokane Valley Mayor Dean Grafos has filed a complaint similar to Mims’ and another complaint about how a $73,440 Community Development Block Grant for the Carnhope Irrigation District was approved immediately after Sam Wood was elected. Wood is the chairman of Carnhope’s board.
Grafos resigned from the Spokane Valley council in April, shortly after Jackson was fired, saying he had been excluded from council communication. He had been re-elected in November and had run unopposed.
A complaint about the severance paid to Jackson has been filed by former Councilman Chuck Hafner, who also resigned in April. Under its separation agreement with Jackson, the city paid out $452,529.81.
Jackson’s contract guaranteed him a minimum severance of six months salary at his current pay rate as well as compensation for all accrued leave and six months of health, life and disability insurance. Documents provided by the city show Jackson’s monthly salary at nearly $20,000, or $120,000 for six months.
Hafner asks in his complaint if the more than $300,000 in extra severance payment may be “construed as squandering the public treasury.”
Valley residents Dave Trimmer and Bob Glaza filed similar complaints.
The auditor’s office cannot release copies of complaints until they are closed, which is expected by mid-November.
Spokane Valley business owner Cindy Hallett filed a complaint with the state attorney general’s office, alleging that Mayor Rod Higgins violated her right to free speech when he called her out of order during the public testimony portion of the March 22 council meeting.
In its emailed response, the attorney general’s office recommended Hallett complain directly to the city of Spokane Valley or to the American Civil Liberties Union, because freedom-of-speech issues don’t fall under the attorney general’s jurisdiction.
Hallett said she’s frustrated that she can’t seem to get help anywhere but is still considering her options.
“I may contact the ACLU,” Hallett said. “I’m not sure.”
Carolbelle Branch, Spokane Valley’s public information officer, said the city will refrain from commenting on any of the complaints until they have gone through due process.
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