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Sunday, October 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane City Council overrides mayor’s veto regarding how city employees are loaned to other agencies

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 17, 2019, 8:12 a.m.

Mayor David Condon smiles toward the crowd before he delivers his final state of the city address in February. Condon’s veto of how city employees are loaned out to other agencies and government was overridden by the City Council on Monday. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Mayor David Condon smiles toward the crowd before he delivers his final state of the city address in February. Condon’s veto of how city employees are loaned out to other agencies and government was overridden by the City Council on Monday. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

The Spokane City Council swiftly overrode Mayor David Condon’s veto of a law that will regulate the loaning of city employees and property to outside agencies.

The veto, announced by Condon on Monday morning and unanimously overridden on Monday evening, is the latest dispute between Condon and the council regarding the city’s contributions to regional collaborations.

The new policy, first approved by the council last month, requires a formal agreement be drafted and the City Council approve whenever a city employee is loaned to an outside entity for 25% or more of their working hours.

The law also would require a written, council-approved agreement whenever the city loans out property valued at more than $5,000.

The council drafted the law after members learned this spring that at least three city employees were contributing to outside agencies, including the fledgling Spokane Regional Emergency Communications center.

The agency, known as SREC, is a regional effort that launched in July and aims to make local 911 communications systems more effective and financially efficient. But the City Council has blocked the city from joining the center until it receives more information about how the move would affect the city’s finances and employees.

The employees in question had been assigned to an outside agency without any formal agreement. It was only after the council raised concerns that the city documented and invoiced what it was owed, according to council member Candace Mumm, who sponsored the new law.

“It’s just good human resources practice to keep track of those things,” Mumm said, adding that the obligations to the city totaled more than $20,000.

Condon has vetoed more laws passed by the council than any mayor since 2001, when the city adopted a form of government that allowed the mayor such power. Given that the loan law was adopted unanimously by the seven-member council in August, and that only five votes are required to override a veto, Condon’s effort was likely doomed from the start.

“I find it unfortunate that the council doesn’t recognize the importance of regional cooperation and collaboration and that the council already is planning to override my veto,” Condon said in a letter accompanying his veto on Monday morning. “Integration of projects and programs across governmental lines has led to better, more affordable outcomes for our citizens.”

In addition to limiting the city’s flexibility in partnering with other governments, Condon opposed the new law on the grounds that staffing assignments fall outside of the council’s purview.

“Although this version of the ordinance is more palatable, the administration believes that the subject of this ordinance ultimately is beyond the purview of the City Council. By Charter, the Mayor is granted the authority to direct work of employees, not the Council,” city spokeswoman Marlene Feist said following the law’s passage in August.

But that’s not the council’s intention, Mumm countered.

“This is not about control of staff, this is about control of the citizen’s tax dollars,” Mumm said.

City Council President Ben Stuckart backed the override, saying that though he supports regionalization in certain cases, the new law doesn’t stifle regionalization and “puts accountability on your tax dollars.”

Under the new law, an agreement must specify that the outside entity will pay the city for use of the city employee, define the role of the employee and identify his or her supervisor, and state how many hours per week the employee will be on loan.

Employee loans are capped at six months, after which the agreement must be renewed.

The law does not apply to members of law enforcement task forces.

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