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Spokane’s elected officials might not receive raises next year after all

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(The Center Square) – The City of Spokane could face potential litigation if it moves forward with raises that its Salary Review Commission improperly approved for the Mayor and City Council on Tuesday.

The Commission adjourned its last meeting on Tuesday, ahead of the May 31 deadline, to file the 2024 Final Report to the City Clerk. While the sense in the room was that the Mayor and City Council’s salary increases passed after a “revote,” Commissioner Reed Jessen said he left feeling railroaded.

Jessen voted in favor of an amendment that significantly trimmed the proposed raises but noted that he would not support approving them. After the amendment passed, a motion and a second were raised to approve the salary increases, concluding the Commission’s work; however, that initial vote failed 2-3.

Joining Jessen were Lori Kinnear and Lee Taylor, the chair and vice chair of the Commission. They wanted to approve raises higher than allotted under the amendment, though Kinnear was surprised when Jessen voted against the increases as a whole.

“Let’s bring that before us again. Make a motion for this,” Kinnear said. “I’m going to change my vote. It’s got to pass. We have May 31 as our deadline.”

“We just voted right,” Jessen said.

“Yeah, I’m going to ask for a recount,” Kinnear said.

However, a “recount” is not a motion allowed under Robert’s Rules of Order, the governing procedure for city proceedings. Jessen pointed this out in an email Thursday night to City Attorney Mike Piccolo, stating that the Commission never officially voted again.

The correct motion under Robert’s Rules would have been to “reconsider.” However, any motion to reconsider requires that it comes from the prevailing party, which Piccolo confirmed in an email to Jessen. While the initial prevailing party included Kinnear, she was not the person who officially motioned again.

That motion came from Commissioner Linda McDermott, who initially voted in favor of the increases, putting her on the failing side of the vote.

“Do we need a motion,” McDermott asked the Commission after Kinnear’s request.

“Yes,” Kinnear responded.

“I move that we approve the Salary Commission Final Report as presented on the screen,” McDermott said.

After Lee Taylor seconded the improper motion, another vote favored the increases 3-2. Jessen, who attended the virtually, then said he would sign the document the next day, noting his dissent.

In his email Thursday night, Jessen said otherwise, alleging the report was not approved due to the failure to follow proper procedure. He noted that even if someone in the prevailing party had correctly motioned, the Commission never did any “reconsidering.”

Robert’s Rules provides that a motion to “reconsider” would be followed by further debate, which never happened, Jessen said.

“I bring this to your attention because I know important decisions such as this, built on shaky ground, are often challenged and cause taxpayers a great deal of money and heartache to sort out,” he wrote in the email to Piccolo. “As far I currently understand, the committee has concluded its work without approving a final report. I will not be executing the report discussed in our meeting on Tuesday.”

Now, the Commission has no time to properly approve the salary increases as the deadline is tonight, and the state’s Open Public Meeting Act requires the Commission to provide an agenda with 24-hour notice prior to convening.

In an interview with The Center Square on Friday, Jessen called any attempt from the city to file a final report without his signature or a proper vote an act of perjury.

The Center Square reached out to Piccolo and his assistant to confirm whether or not the city would deem the second vote unofficial but did not receive an immediate response.

The Center Square also contacted City Clerk Terri Pfister to confirm if a final report had been filed on the Commission’s behalf but did not receive an immediate response.