Three Stevens County commissioners were sworn in Tuesday, taking the place of an interim board appointed after previous elected officials were removed by court order.
Commissioner Wes McCart, one of the three who was ousted following a finding that he and his colleagues had misused public funds intended to assist the homeless, was named chairman of the panel following a swearing-in ceremony Tuesday afternoon. He’s joined on the panel by Commissioner Greg Young, who with McCart was elected to the position during the Nov. 3 general election.
Commissioner Mark Burrows, the current police chief in Chewelah, was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee as the top pick for the spot by the local Republican Party. All three men took the oath of office from Superior Court Judge Lech Radzimski on Tuesday.
McCart said last week the commission’s first priorities would be to establish a budget for the next fiscal year and to finalize spending of the county’s federal coronavirus aid money, which must be allocated by Dec. 30.
“There’s tens of thousands of lines in the budget that need to be gone over. It takes a considerable amount of time,” McCart said. “It’s going to be extremely compressed.”
Commissioners will also hold hearings on a watershed plan for the Little Spokane River and to consider an assessment increase to fund weed control in the county.
McCart, along with Commissioners Don Dashiell and Steve Parker, were effectively removed from office by a court order in August after the county prosecutor brought a lawsuit addressing the misspent funds. The state Auditor’s Office found in February 2018 that $121,000 set aside to help the homeless had been an unallowable gift of public funds to a private landowner and two nonprofits that built homes for people with spinal injuries.
The former commissioners, including McCart, are appealing part of a Spokane County judge’s ruling in the case about how much in salary they must repay Stevens County, and how. McCart said he didn’t believe the dispute would affect his ability to govern.
Burrows will serve for one year, and then must defend his seat by filing for re-election in the 2021 contest. McCart and Young have been elected to four-year terms.
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