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Thursday, February 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane City Council overrides Condon’s final veto

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 28, 2020

The Downtown Spokane Partnership will honor former Spokane Mayor David Condon and three others during its annual meeting Thursday. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
The Downtown Spokane Partnership will honor former Spokane Mayor David Condon and three others during its annual meeting Thursday. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

Despite former Mayor David Condon’s wishes, the salaries and benefits of several top-level city employees will not be subject to independent oversight from the city’s Salary Review Commission.

Condon had hoped the City Council’s legislative changes to the commission – an independent board that determines the salaries of the City Council and mayor – would allow it to determine the compensation of more than 40 city employees who are exempt from Civil Service.

But for the final time, the council has overridden a veto from Condon. It was the last dispute in what became an increasingly tense relationship between the council and Condon during his second term in office.

The council unanimously overrode his veto at Monday’s council meeting.

Those employees are largely department heads and other mayoral appointees, as well as City Council staff members. By leaving their pay and benefits in the hands of a third party, Condon said he had hoped to avoid politicization and improve transparency.

But to Condon’s chagrin, the council left exempt employees out of the Salary Review Commission’s purview when it passed the new law on Dec. 16. Two weeks later, Condon vetoed the law, which made minor adjustments that included setting professional background requirements for the commission’s members.

Condon’s human resources director, Christine Cavanaugh, had warned council members that adding more than 40 jobs to the commission’s scope of authority could be overly burdensome for the commission and for the human resources department. The process to determine appropriate compensation for each new employee could take months, and council members worried candidates could opt for a job elsewhere while waiting.

Council members argued there already are job descriptions and pay scales in place for exempt employees and that they had assumed the city’s human resources director was acting on Condon’s behalf when she suggested the council abandon plans to include exempt employees in the commission’s purview.

Condon was sharply critical of the council in his veto letter last month, arguing that the council “has chosen to ignore the need for more transparency in exempt employee salaries.”

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