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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Condon pushes City Council to pass oversight ordinance before police union talks

FILE - Mayor David Condon, right, gave an update about the City of Spokane’s financial condition and ongoing constructin projects during a speech to the Spokane City Council. In this photo from 2016, City Council President Ben Stuckart is shown at left. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane Mayor David Condon is asking the City Council to pass its law changing civilian oversight of the Police Department before he begins negotiations with the union representing uniformed officers.

“I do not believe the city can in good faith begin negotiations if the council is continuing to contemplate changes to the ordinance that would require additional and corresponding changes to the collective bargaining agreement,” Condon wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to the council.

The council Monday called for the mayor to begin bargaining with the Spokane Police Guild and issued a letter outlining its priorities for the negotiations.

Both Condon and the council say their intent is to avoid protracted negotiations. Brian Coddington, spokesman for the mayor, said the city needs to have “all its cards on the table” when launching talks with the guild.

“The mayor’s just seeking clarity for the bargaining process. It’s hard to bargain for something that is not known,” he said.

The guild has asked twice to open negotiations with the city, dating back to the middle of last year, said Spokane police Officer John Griffin, president of the union. The current agreement with the city expired at the end of last year, but the terms roll over until a new contract is agreed upon.

Griffin said he’d reviewed the council’s letter, which changes the amount of investigative authority afforded the Spokane police ombudsman and also calls for capping overtime and hiring noncommissioned “technicians” who could take property crimes cases.

“I think it’s kind of premature to postulate what they’re actually going to put on their agenda,” Griffin said. “There’s a lot in that letter. I can’t imagine them bringing the whole kit and caboodle.”

City Council President Ben Stuckart and Councilman Breean Beggs said Thursday they believed Condon could start negotiating other terms of the contract while waiting for the passage of a new ordinance governing the ombudsman. The issue derailed the last round of contract negotiations with the Spokane Police Guild, prompting a unanimous no-vote from the City Council on the first draft of the contract because it didn’t go far enough in lawmakers’ eyes to establish the level of oversight demanded by city residents in a 2013 ballot measure.

“For now, there’s a really good framework. Every single council member agreed on these points,” Stuckart said, referring to unanimous support for the negotiating letter signed by the council Monday. “I believe that he could start negotiating right now.”

Beggs said the council could vote on a new version of the ombudsman ordinance as early as the beginning of next month. But he said that shouldn’t continue to delay negotiating with the guild, whose contract expired four months ago.

“We weren’t advised until after the start of this year that there was any need to have a new ordinance done before negotiations could start,” Beggs said.

In his letter, Condon said he has received advice from the attorney representing the city that the ombudsman issues must be resolved before talks with the guild can begin. Condon also noted that Stuckart, City Councilman Mike Fagan and City Councilwomen Candace Mumm and Amber Waldref approved the previous version of the ombudsman ordinance, which passed unanimously.

“Given that legal guidance, I request that the council either vote on the proposed changes to the ordinance or provide written indication that it does not intend to make changes to the ordinance,” Condon wrote.