Spokane’s elected leaders might not get raises next year after all

The City of Spokane may face legal action if it proceeds with the raises that were improperly approved for the Mayor and City Council by its Salary Review Commission on Tuesday.

The Commission concluded its final meeting on Tuesday, just before the May 31 deadline, to submit the 2024 Final Report to the City Clerk. As the meeting progressed, there was a prevailing sentiment that the Mayor and City Council’s salary increases were approved after a “revote.” However, Commissioner Reed Jessen expressed feeling coerced and frustrated by the proceedings.

Jessen supported an amendment that substantially reduced the proposed salary increases but made it clear that he would not back their approval. Following the successful passage of the amendment, a motion was put forward and seconded to approve the raises, marking the conclusion of the Commission’s work. However, the initial vote to approve the increases failed by a margin of 2-3.

Lori Kinnear and Lee Taylor, the chair and vice chair of the Commission, joined Jessen in the decision-making process. However, Kinnear was taken aback when Jessen voted against the proposed raises, which were higher than what was originally allocated under the amendment.

Kinnear urged everyone to reconsider the matter at hand. He proposed making a motion for it and expressed his intention to change his vote. He emphasized the importance of passing it, as they had a deadline of May 31.

“We made the right choice with our vote,” Jessen confidently stated.

Kinnear expressed his intention to request a recount, stating, “Yeah, I’m going to ask for a recount.”

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However, according to Robert’s Rules of Order, a “recount” is not a motion that is permitted in city proceedings. Jessen highlighted this in an email sent to City Attorney Mike Piccolo on Thursday night, emphasizing that the Commission did not conduct an official vote again.

According to Robert’s Rules, the appropriate course of action would have been to “reconsider.” However, the motion to reconsider must come from the prevailing party, as confirmed by Piccolo in an email to Jessen. Although Kinnear was part of the original prevailing party, she did not officially make the motion again.

Commissioner Linda McDermott, who initially supported the increases, ended up voting against them, resulting in the motion’s failure.

McDermott inquired the Commission whether a motion was necessary after Kinnear’s request.

“Absolutely,” Kinnear replied.

McDermott proposed approving the Salary Commission Final Report as it was displayed on the screen.

After Taylor supported the inappropriate proposal, the increases were favored 3-2 in another vote. Jessen, who attended virtually, announced that he would sign the document the following day, expressing his disagreement.

In an email sent on Thursday night, Jessen disputed this claim, stating that the report was not approved because proper procedure was not followed. He emphasized that even if someone from the prevailing party had made the correct motion, the Commission did not engage in any “reconsideration.”

According to Jessen, Robert’s Rules state that a motion to “reconsider” should be followed by additional debate. However, this did not occur.

In an email to Piccolo, he expressed his concern about the decision, stating that decisions made on unstable grounds often face challenges and burden taxpayers with financial and emotional consequences. He further mentioned that, from his understanding, the committee has completed its work without reaching a consensus on a final report. Therefore, he made it clear that he will not proceed with the report discussed in their meeting on Tuesday.

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The Commission is currently facing a time constraint, with the deadline for approving salary increases approaching tonight. This poses a challenge as the state’s Open Public Meeting Act mandates that the Commission must provide a 24-hour notice agenda before convening. Consequently, there is limited time available for the Commission to fulfill this requirement.

During a recent interview with The Center Square, Jessen strongly criticized any efforts by the city to submit a final report without his signature or a legitimate vote, deeming it an act of perjury.

Piccolo and his assistant were contacted by The Center Square to verify if the city would consider the second vote unofficial, but they have not responded yet.

I reached out to City Clerk Terri Pfister to confirm if a final report had been filed on the Commission’s behalf, but I have not received a response yet.

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