The Washington State Auditor’s Office has issued a detailed report clearing the Spokane Valley City Council – specifically Councilmen Ed Pace and Sam Wood, Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard and Mayor Rod Higgins, who were serving at the time – of violations of the Open Public Meetings Act and mismanagement of public funds in connection with the firing of former city manager Mike Jackson.
On Sunday, newly re-elected Republican State Rep. Matt Shea, Spokane Valley, took to Facebook announcing the auditor’s ruling and accusing those questioning the council’s actions of spreading “politically motivated disinformation.”
Shea wrote that the “disinformation is an attempt to try and set up an overthrow of the City Council by a tight knit group of liberal socialists who will stop at nothing to gain power.”
The auditor found that Jackson received $213,443.36 more in termination than his contract called for, stating, “The larger payment was due to Mike Jackson negotiating and being paid 18 months of salary and 100 percent of his sick leave balance.”
Because the City Council approved the termination agreement in an open public meeting, the Auditor’s Office found no wrong doing on the council’s behalf.
A Freedom of Information Act request filed by The Spokesman-Review earlier this year revealed one email conversation among a quorum of the four council members responding to a request from a Spokane Valley resident that “Mike Jackson be brought under control.”
Jackson’s attorney, Milt Rowland, said that Jackson was told prior to the City Council meeting where a public decision was made to fire him that he would lose this job. Jackson’s termination agreement included a gag order.
Former Mayor and City Councilman Dean Grafos filed a separate complaint about Woodard’s representation of Spokane Valley on the Spokane County board that allocates CDBG funds, but the Auditor’s Office said the transfer of funds was not inappropriate partly because Spokane Valley’s proposed Blake Road sidewalk wasn’t construction ready.
Grafos, who resigned from the council in the wake of Jackson’s firing, had this to say in an email:
“I’m very disappointed that the State of Washington failed, or chose not to recognize the spirit of the law in regard to the secretive, serial meetings and disrespect by the Council for the citizens of Spokane Valley and their tax dollars.”
Councilman Ed Pace said he was not the least surprised by the auditor’s findings.
“We didn’t do anything wrong,” Pace said, adding that he believes in the Open Public Meetings Act and hopes the council can put these issues behind it. “As far as I am concerned we are done with this now.”
Higgins, Wood and Woodard did not respond to an email request for comment.
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