Ethics Commission Does Not Find Violations of Ethics Code in Complaint against Council Members

Lisa Gardner, City Council Communications Director, 509.625.6226

Thursday, December 21, 2023 at 2:16 p.m.

At its Thursday, December 14th hearing, the City of Spokane Ethics Commission issued decisions regarding complaints filed against Council President Betsy Wilkerson and Council Member Zack Zappone, which were filed earlier in the year.  In granting Council President Wilkerson’s motion to dismiss, the Commission ruled that a violation of the Code of Ethics did not occur.  The Commission did not find a violation of the Code of Ethics against Council Member Zack Zappone.  The ethics violations came into question following disproven allegations of gerrymandering during the 2022 Redistricting process, where the Council adopted an updated District map based on 2020 census data that keeps neighborhoods together rather than splitting them between multiple districts. 

“Council members and their staff prevailed in a process that pitted the complainant’s personal beliefs and opinions against the facts,” said Council President Betsy Wilkerson.  “The ethics review process is broken and needs reforming, specifically commissioner selection and when those commissioners should recuse themselves.  The bar is set high for elected officials, and similar expectations should be in place for volunteers who sit in judgment of them.”

Council Member Zack Zappone added:

“The outcome of the hearing makes it clear that there was no violation of the ethics code. There was, however, confusion throughout this process by all about the definition of “remote special interest in legislation.” Some commissioners wrongly believed I had a remote special interest in redistricting. By that logic, council members could have a remote special interest in approving future ethics commissioners who would later determine the fate of council members on ethics complaints. This would be a dangerous precedent. Through this journey, it appears that the ethics commission process is fractured. False allegation after false allegation have been brought against me this year in an attempt to discredit my work as a council member. This is another example of operatives attempting to drag me through the mud and create obstacles in my duty to represent my community.” 

The adopted council district map is one of four selected by the City’s volunteer Redistricting Board for robust public comment, including town hall meetings, online surveys, receipt of written and oral public comment, and discussions with the Community Assembly and Neighborhood Councils. The council district map was challenged in court and a Spokane County Superior Court judge ruled that the map was legal and compliant with State law.

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