Originally published by the Inlander (http://www.inlander.com/spokane/on-hold/Content?oid=2195478)
by Heidi Groover
As citizens streamed forward to the microphone Monday, Councilman Steve Salvatori looked out to the audience and down at his hands, long-faced and exasperated.
“Transparency is awkward until your eyes adjust to the light,” Salvatori told the group, carefully choosing his words to explain an ordinance he championed that was now a shell of its former self.
Though Salvatori initially introduced an ordinance that would have granted far-reaching independence to the city’s Office of Police Ombudsman, the version approved Monday simply established a citizen commission to oversee the office, putting on hold provisions like the authority to conduct independent investigations of police actions. After 21 months of police contract negotiations and a ballot measure to add the strengthened ombudsman to the City Charter, the move began as an attempt to bypass or speed up secret guild negotiations. Then, late last week, the city administration announced it had reached a tentative agreement with the guild, but wouldn’t discuss any details publicly until guild members pass the agreement and it goes to the council for consideration. Councilmembers were briefed in executive session last week about the agreement, leaving them in the awkward position of knowing what the contract grants the ombudsman but not being able to discuss it — even as they voted on an ordinance about the ombudsman.