Citizens move to recall Mayor Condon

Former police chief Straub’s sexual assault case is coming back to the mayor

David Condon

David Condon

By Kalli Wolf, Staff Writer

There is a movement brewing to recall Mayor David A. Condon of Spokane in light of complaints against his hand-picked Police Chief Frank Straub.

Condon took Straub’s badge on Sept. 22 due to allegations regarding the chief’s behavior toward employees, according to an article published in The Spokesman-Review.

“Condon said he’d decided it was time to ‘move in a new direction, change management’ in the police department after receiving a letter from the Spokane Police Lieutenants and Captains Association detailing the ‘unprofessional and even hostile behavior’ that made Straub an ineffective chief,” according to The Spokesman-Review.

However, Condon had received more serious accusations regarding Straub back in April when police spokesperson Monique Cotton came forward and said Straub had sexually assaulted her.

“Before it all became public, … it was just David Condon and police spokeswoman Monique Cotton sitting in a small, austere conference room by themselves,” according to an article in The Inlander.

The two were discussing Cotton’s issues with her boss, Straub, when she claimed that he had sexually assaulted her and she wanted a new job, but did not want to file a formal sexual harassment complaint in fear of it triggering, “a messy public process that would thrust her into the spotlight,” according to The Inlander.

According to the article, Cotton’s attorney, Bob Dunn, said Cotton made a deal after about an hour. This deal would give Cotton a new job, a raise, her attorney would get paid and the matter would be kept quiet. Dunn said Condon agreed to take care of it.

Late November, public records requested by the media were finally released. The records revealed the scope of complaints against Straub, according to The Inlander. “The records also stand in stark contrast to public statements by Condon’s administration, revealing an active effort by the mayor and his top advisers to mislead the public about the true nature of problems inside the police department,” said the article.

The records revealed many things, including that Cotton had told the mayor and City Administrator Theresa Sanders that Straub had sexually assaulted her in April 2015. She demanded to be transferred out of the police department and wrote Sanders saying, “My transfer into a new position has to be viewed as advancement; without any hint that it is for any reason other than as a promotion for my past performance.” The documents also revealed that Dunn had written City Attorney Nancy Isserlis in an attempt to collect $13,000, this amount covering his client’s expenses through a reimbursement agreement in an attempt to keep the matter from the public eye, according to the Inlander.

In response, Condon said he did not know what to do, as he was trying to keep his promise to Cotton. “If I gave very specific answers that the public feels were misleading, that was not my intention,” Condon said in a press conference. “It was my intention to provide the ultimate confidence that the employee had asked for,” according to The Inlander.

Despite all that was revealed in the articles, the timing of them was convenient according to some as they came out after Condon had been re-elected.

“Although the media requested relevant documents in August and again in September, they weren’t released until after the November election. Condon says the city saw a spike in records requests in the last quarter of 2015, accounting for the delay. Others don’t see it that way,” said The Inlander. It was also reported that executive director of the nonprofit Center for Justice Rich Eichstaedt said, “This is awfully convenient timing for the release of these documents,” and, “It’s obviously politically motivated.”

Nevertheless, there continues to be controversy regarding issues, including the fact that Straub still remains on payroll as the city’s highest-paid employee, Condon’s role as an effective mayor and the lack of investigation when Cotton revealed what had happened, regardless of her wanting to keep it quiet or not. Straub is also filing a $4 million claim against the city regarding his resignation, saying he did not resign, but he was fired.

Currently, a Facebook group of 600 plus members is seeking a recall of Condon and, according to The Inlander, ethics complaints are being filed against the mayor.

Local business owner Jamie Pendleton founded the Change Spokane Facebook page calling for Condon’s recall.

“The goal is to hold the mayor accountable for his actions and the actions of his administration,” Pendleton said. Another goal is to inform voters of Spokane that they have the power to create change.

“There were enough voters that did not vote for Condon that could sign a petition to put a recall vote on the next available ballot, add on the voters that did vote for Condon that also wish to now hold the Mayor accountable, there would be well over the 12,000 signatures needed,” said Pendleton.

Due to Condon dismissing current ethics complaints, Pendleton believes this will only motivate voters to demand action. The National Organization of Women (NOW) has also filed an ethics complaint, but Condon has yet to dismiss it. According to Pendleton, from a political standpoint, this would only fuel more outrage.

As far as the recall movement goes, the Spokane Ethics Commision has the authority to recommend a recall to the city council immediately. The city council can then vote to put a recall vote on the ballot.

“Considering they have already sent a letter to the mayor demanding an investigation, it is fair to say they would easily vote in favor,” said Pendleton.

The next scheduled hearing is on Jan. 13.