The Spokane Valley City Council quickly and quietly quashed Tuesday night any further action toward an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of former City Manager Mike Jackson.
No member of the council – down to five men after the recent resignations of Dean Grafos and Chuck Hafner due to irreconcilable differences with the majority – would second a motion by temporary Council Member Bill Gothmann, thus ending the matter without discussion.
Still, with a public comment period on the agenda directly afterward, there were a few who weighed in on the subject; including Grafos, who stood with Hafner and Gothmann when Jackson was asked to tender his resignation on Feb. 23.
“I’m not surprised. We were told we wouldn’t have an independent investigation until it was settled (with Jackson). Now it’s really settled, so why don’t we have an investigation?” Grafos asked. “What do we have to hide? I think the citizens of this city deserve an answer on how all of this happened.”
Jackson initially refused to quit and entered into negotiations with the city. The council agreed to a $411,000 settlement, and Jackson resigned on April 27. No parties involved are allowed to discuss the severance.
Grafos and Hafner have both said they are convinced the majority of the council violated open-meeting laws and had made their decision to remove Jackson prior to the full council gathering at the dais.
“It’s reasonable to assume the council met in secret,” Marc Mims, a Valley resident, said. “The responsible thing to do would be to have an independent investigation. A vote against it will be seen as a cover-up.”
Others, however, said the decision to remove Jackson was the right one, regardless of how it was made.
“There’s nothing to investigate,” said Scott Maclay, a frequent critic of Jackson and the city’s existing public safety contract with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. “The majority of the council met and the majority of the council decided.”
None of the council majority – made up of Mayor Rod Higgins, Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard along with Council Members Ed Pace and Sam Wood – have said specifically why it asked for Jackson’s resignation. Under the city’s council-manager form of government, the council can hire or fire the city manager.
The council will appoint replacements for Grafos and Hafner, with interviews scheduled for June 21. Gothmann – who has filled in for ailing Council Member Bill Gates the past year – has also said he will not continue in that role beyond next month.
The council is expected to appoint new members on June 28.