An ongoing fraud investigation and a daily newspaper editorial brought a response from Spokane County commissioners last week.
Well, at least one in particular.
Commissioner Al French called a press conference last Friday to explain why Spokane County went forward with a $685,000 settlement with Ace Investments for the Hunter’s Point Development, located in the northern portion of the county.
Despite court documents that say developer Harley Douglass falsely submitted documentation to reach the settlement payment, French said the county won’t make any moves to recover the money until the issue has been settled.
The Spokane County hearing examiner determined in 2009 that the county had erred in denying a final plat for a subdivision in the Mead area and was liable for damages to Ace Investments. A global settlement was negotiated between the county, the Washington Counties Risk Pool (which insures Spokane County) and Ace Investments for the $685,000 amount.
The settlement was then approved by county commissioners at a public meeting in November 2009.
French said in last Friday’s press conference that county officials “continue to monitor this process” as Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich works through a criminal investigation involving Douglass, who has sued his business partners – siblings Lanzce and Stacey Douglass – along with Ace Investments, the owner of the subdivision, in order to obtain the full settlement amount.
During the course of the latter Douglasses’ counterclaim was when evidence of fraudulent invoices was discovered.
Last week, the Spokesman-Review ran an editorial that was critical of Spokane County’s role in the incident.
“I am extremely concerned about the misinformation contained in the editorial and the implication that Spokane County employees and the Board of County Commissioners behaved in a dishonest and secretive fashion, which is categorically untrue,” French said.
“The board has acted appropriately within its limitations, according to how Spokane County government is structured.”
French went on to say that “unlike the city of Spokane, county commissioners do not have the authority to call for a criminal investigation or demand that charges be filed.”
That is the responsibility of the sheriff and prosecuting attorney, French added.
“We will seek restitution, if appropriate,” he said. “But until we hear the outcome of the investigation, it should be made very clear that these accusations of fraud and dishonesty are between business partners and do not involve the county.”