After nearly eight years, the tense relationship between Spokane Mayor David Condon and the City Council is well-documented – and it appears his final weeks in office won’t be any different.
Two council members are concerned with the lengths to which Condon has gone to make the transition to a new mayor, Nadine Woodward, as seamless as possible, raising objections to his clearing of office space in City Hall for the mayor-elect and questioning what access she will be given to city resources.
“I’m concerned about access to city resources when you have not been sworn in and you have not taken office,” said Councilwoman Lori Kinnear, who won re-election to a second term representing the South Hill this week.
Woodward is not yet a city employee and has not undergone human resources training, Councilwoman Candace Mumm argued. She also questioned the appointment of City Administrator Theresa Sanders to oversee the transition on behalf of Condon’s administration and the creation of a separate city email account for her to handle that business.
The city did not specify what resources will be made available to the mayor-elect but said in a statement that they will be “those agreed upon and requested, in accordance with a legal review and substantiated by the Municipal Research and Services Center.”
Kinnear questioned whether a similar offer would be made to the council’s new members, including Michael Cathcart, who appears poised to replace outgoing Councilman Mike Fagan after Tuesday’s vote. She said members of the council “need to start off on a good footing, too, not uneven right off the bat.”
When Mumm was elected, she said she requested access to the city email system but was refused access to the city IT system or any city resources until she was sworn in.
“I’m surprised that this is the same administration that barred me from access to city resources to prepare for my job,” Mumm said. “I’m all for transition and happy to work with the new administration on that, but this is a reversal of what the city policy has been.”
Condon called the council members’ concerns “ridiculous,” and said the use of office space had been cleared by the city’s legal department.
“It’s not only authorized but the right thing to do for this city,” Condon said.
Woodward said she absolutely plans to use the available office space.
“At the mayoral level, there’s a lot more to be done. When you’re forming transition teams and meeting daily with people over the next two months, and have to fill as many positions as I have to, that’s something you want to get working on right now,” Woodward said.
Kinnear stressed her objections were not to Woodward but to what she described as an inequity.
“We, the council, were not given access. What’s with the double standard?” Kinnear asked.
In a statement, city spokeswoman Fianna Dickson apologized on the city’s behalf for “any conflicting information from the past.”
“This type of transition makes sense going forward, as planned since September. We will continue to provide whatever help we can to facilitate a smooth transition in the best interest of the city,” Dickson said.
The fifth-floor office space cleared by Condon was occupied by Spokane Parks employees who were relocated, Mumm said.
Two Park Planning employees temporarily used the office during the redevelopment of Riverfront Park, according to Dickson.
“When the Pavilion opened, Riverfront employees moved to the Pavilion offices, and our Park Planning staff moved to space Riverfront staff had occupied,” Dickson said.
Mumm echoed Kinnear, saying that she raised the issue prior to Tuesday’s election results rolling in.
“There are more issues here than just who’s going to be doing the job,” Mumm said.
Woodward said the council members’ concerns seem “disingenuous.”
“I hope that is not a sign of how this council intends to work with me after I’m sworn in, because I fully plan to have a great relationship with them moving forward,” she said.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.