Today, the city of Spokane ruled that a judge should not be the last word on a law approved by nearly 80% of voters.
The city has officially filed an appeal against Judge Tony Hazel’s bizarre August ruling that overturned collective bargaining.
The call was recommended by advocates for transparency, including the Washington Policy Center.
Almost 80% of voters in the city of Spokane approved a charter amendment in 2019 requiring collective bargaining between the city and its unions over the compensation of government employees to be transparent and open to the public. These contracts involve millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars – so it’s not unusual for citizens to want transparency.
In August, Spokane Superior Court Judge Tony Hazel rejected the law completely, taking just 10 seconds to consider oral arguments he just heard from both sides.
Judge Hazel delivered his decision more than 20 minutes from the bench. It was bizarre and rambling – more of a political speech than a ruling on facts and the law.
He wrongly claimed that state law required collective bargaining to be âexclusiveâ between the two parties. In fact, the âexclusiveâ requirement of state law refers to the right of unions to be certified as the only entity authorized to negotiate terms and conditions of employment on behalf of particular groups of public employees.
The judge erroneously argued that the Charter provision not include a termination clause. It does.
Judge Hazel said “transparency in local government is exceptionally important”, but then said “there is also the reality of human nature”.
The judge also appeared to be ignoring the state’s higher court rulings on the matter, which did not prevent the charter change approved by Spokane voters.
Judge Hazel said he gave “a judicious reading, an objective reading” to the Spokane transparency law. From his comments, however, it’s clear he didn’t.
Instead of speaking out on the facts and the case, Judge Hazel got political and said the charter amendment approved by the voters was just “an adversarial tactic … it’s fair, honestly.” .
Last week, WPC sent a letter to city officials encouraging an appeal.
âThe citizens of Spokane expect you to stand up for and obey the law they have made and that you abide by your oath, which guarantees the commitment and enforcement of the city’s charter. Failure to do so could cast a shadow over government transparency in our region and irreparable damage to citizens’ trust in government. We urge you to appeal this embarrassing decision and stand firm on government transparency. “
Explaining why the Pullman School District is embracing transparency in collective bargaining, District Finance Director Diane Hodge said, âWe just think it’s fair that all members know what is being offered on both sides. “
Citizens have the right to know how public spending decisions are made on their behalf. Ending collective bargaining secrecy and opening government union contract negotiations to the public, as other states and cities have done, is a practical and ethical way to achieve this standard.