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Compensation for Tri-Cities Council Members Has Wide Range, Trumbo in Kennewick and Thompson in Richland at the Top

Kennewick City Councilman John Trumbo Richland City Councilman Bob Thompson

Based on information obtained from Richland, Kennewick and Pasco governments, in 2019 city council member compensation had a wide range. The amount depended on whether the jurisdiction provided medical, dental and vision insurance for its members, whether the members enrolled in those programs and how many family members were covered.

In March 21, 2017 Richland City Council voted unanimously to provide 100% visual and dental coverage and 88% of the medical coverage for city council members, replacing a 2001 ordinance that allowed members access to the employee insurance program. Kennewick officials could not pinpoint when the current insurance benefit was adopted but believed that it was some time before 1984. Kennewick city council members also pay 12% of the cost of the medical insurance coverage.

Kennewick City Councilman John Trumbo collected more in base pay and medical, dental and vision insurance than any other council member in the Tri-Cities, $42,339.48. Bob Thompson collected the second highest amount for the same year, $37,862.88..

The base pay in Kennewick for 2019 was $14,700. For the city council members in Kennewick who were on the Council for all of 2019, the compensation range including base pay and medical dental and vision insurance ranged from Trumbo’s $42,339.48 to $27,332.97 for Bill McKay. Don Britain received $36,546.98; Steve Lee, $35,353.68. Paul Parish who didn’t run for re-election received $35,880.72 for a partial year. Charles Torelli, appointed to replace Matt Boehnke who was elected to the state legislature in 2018, received $11,522.48 for a partial year (he did not participate in the medical or dental program). Steve Young who died in May 2019 received $13,065.70 and his appointed replacement, Ed Frost, received $6,968.17.

Base pay for Richland City Council members was $13,920.00 in 2019. Compensation in Richland for 2019 ranged from $13,920 collected by Brad Anderson and Sandra Kent to Thompson’s $37,862.88. Michael Alvarez was the second highest compensated member of the Richland Council at $34,862; Phil Lemley third at $29,753.04; Terry Christensen and Ryan Lukson each received $15,777.84.

Base pay for Pasco City Council members was $13, 379.60. Pasco does not provide health, dental or vision insurance to its members.

For purposes of comparison Social Security, Paid Family and Medical Leave and Medicare were not considered because the three jurisdictions did not treat them the same way. Kennewick pays those and treats them as a benefit. They are subtracted from the city council compensation in Pasco. Richland did not indicate how they were treated.

Police cameras back on the Richland council agenda, Randy’s Rundown Sept. 06

Richland City Council meetings are back to remote.

The Richland City Council meeting will be conducted remotely. Information on how to view the meeting and comment during hearings or during the public comment section of the meeting appears at the top of the agenda.

The page numbers below correspond to the pages in the packet.

On Tuesday night, Chief John Bruce will discuss amending the 2021 city budget to match the $235,259 in one-time funding received from the state for police cameras.

At the June 15, 2021, meeting, Chief John Bruce asked the council to approve joining other local jurisdictions in applying for a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice for a grant. The Observer does not know the status of this grant proposal.

1.Mayor Ryan Lukson will read a proclamation “Recognizing Constitution Week.” Pg. 4-5

2. Allied Arts Association’s 70th Anniversary of Art in the Park will also be recognized with a proclamation. Pg. 6-7

3. New hires and retirements will be recognized. Pg. 8

Public Hearings

4.The city proposes relinquishing a utility easement at 1311 Winslow to the homeowner as the easement is no longer needed.  According to a real estate listing for the property earlier this year that appeared on the website Zillow, this could possibly give the homeowners the ability to divide the property into two lots. Pg. 104-107

5.The proposed amendment would create off-street parking requirements for a new classification of uses referred to as “specialized athletic training facilities.”  Wave Design Group wants to lower the parking from one spot for every 350 sq. ft. of floor space to one per 150 sq. ft. of floor space. The staff proposed cutting the difference and making it 1 per 250 sq. ft. of floor space. The council will debate.

Take this opportunity to read our almost one hundred pages of codes on parking. By the way, two parking places in tandem only count as one. Pg. 174-282.

Public Comments

6. Approving the minutes of the Aug. 17 meeting and the Aug. 24 workshop. Please note that on Aug. 17 when Councilmember Terry Christensen proposed reinstituting pre-meetings, there was no second to his motion.  Pg. 11-21

7. Police Chief John Bruce proposes adding appropriations from the city general fund to the 2021 budget to match the $235,259 grant received from the state for police cameras. Pg. 22-24

8. The Firefighter’s Pension Board membership is largely directed by the state. The fund is required to have a city treasurer. The city’s ordinances had named the Administrative Services Director to be the treasurer, but the city no longer has someone with that title. Therefore, the City’s Finance Director will be designated the treasurer instead. Pg. 25-27

9. See item above. Same thing with the Police Pension Board. Pg. 28-30

10. The annexed property at Zinsli, Allenwhite and Badger Mountain Winery had solid waste service with Waste Management of Washington. This is a transition contract with those companies. Pg. 31-58

11. This is another solid waste transition contract with Basin Disposal, Inc. and Ed’s Disposal, Inc. connected to the annexations mentioned above. Pg. 59-86

12. This solid waste transition contract is connected to the Lorayne J. Annexation. Pg. 87-103

13. See Item 4. Pg. 104-107

14. This approves the final plat of Westcliffe Heights – Phase 4. It will have 62.7 acres with 48 houses and 7 tracts. Pg. 108-163.

15. This authorizes an agreement with Kennewick, Pasco and West Richland for a stormwater effectiveness study and water quality stormwater grant application.  Let’s hope we have some stormwater to control, and soon! Pg. 164-169.

16. Approving up to $5000 in relocation expenses for our new library manager.

17. Let’s call this the humoring Christensen resolution. It opposes local income tax on the residents and businesses of the city of Richland. It would have no effect on a state-wide income tax. There are about 17 states with cities that have some kind of income tax. Eight of them are in the liberal bastions of Mississippi, Alabama, Kansas, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa and Ohio.

18. See Item 5. Pg.  174-182.

Interim City Manager and city council members BLAH, BLAH, BLAH

Before they go into executive session to discuss current or potential litigation.

Benton Commissioners meet to discuss putting a crisis recovery center in the old Kennewick hospital – by Mike Lowery*, Guest Writer

This was a special Benton County Commissioner’s meeting at 6 pm on 9/1/21 to informally
discuss matters regarding the creation of a Crisis Recovery Center (CRC) at the old Kennewick Hospital also known as the Trios Auburn property at 8th and Auburn in Kennewick.

The Meeting Agenda

The matters highlighted in the agenda included:

1, Discussing a .01% sales tax, a penny on every ten dollars spent in Benton county to help fund the CRC,

2. Creating an Advisory Committee for the CRC,

3, Discussing the Property Condition Assessment Report for the Trios Auburn Property.

I attended the meeting by video so I was not sure which commissioners were speaking at times because of face mask. When I refer to “the Board” I mean it in general. Not all of the Board agreed with everything I heard them say. It was hard to hear “who said what”. They were all there, Commissioners Shon Small, Jerome Delvin and Will McKay.

The commissioners shared that they were eager to move forward on the project and wished for
public input for almost all matters associated with the CRC.

Sales Tax

Concerning the tax, they know discussions need to be held but are in support of moving forward with the process because as they mentioned it will serve our community greatly.

If I heard correctly one of the Board supports a half of .01% tax increase if Franklin County gets involved. We heard an audience member support that value. Others that spoke agree with the full amount of .01% with or without Franklin Co.

While it is uncertain whether Franklin County will be involved, Benton is moving forward and all who
spoke this evening were in support.

It was also shared that revenue from the tax in our county should be about five million dollars a year. Since no budget was mentioned, it’s hard to understand if it’s fair.

Treatment for Children and Teens

Many people in the room and the Board want the CRC to deal with
children and teens. The board mentioned our juvenile justice center and jails are crowded with
people who just need mental attention. Helping younger children saves the community from
potential social unrest and improves everyone’s quality of life. The lack of services in our
community is stressing caregivers, our police officers and our small mental health community. It’s
clear the Board is listening to the community.

Mobile mental health team

The Board and some people in the audience want to see in the budget a quick response mobile mental health team to reduce officers’ time at a scene when they can serve us better elsewhere. Secondly the Board and some community members were clear on providing free services for the everyone who needs it in the first 24 hours.

The Advisory Committee

An Advisory Committee was discussed in some detail and both the Board and the attendees
were in agreement one should be created. The number 13 was discussed before the meeting
for amount of people needed on the committee, all with skills needed for task.

Several audience members offered to help, many very qualified it sounded. You can’t see them on the video stream. One gentleman with over 40 years experience and several degrees in counseling and
rehabilitative services mentioned it sounded like the board was evaluating some old data for inhouse detox/rehab. He said that more recent data has suggested that out-patient detox and rehab were more

Seems like a good thing to know. There was no discussion as to whether the Advisory Committee will
have the luxury of visiting other facilities as the Board did. It does seem apparent a
single provider is in the Board’s mind and that may be something the advisory committee will
help with.

Rehabbing the hospital building

Finally there is the issue of the old building’s health and what will it cost to get it
running. No one from a construction background opened up to being on the advisory board but I
am sure the Board will assign someone. The Wave Design Group did the assessment on the old
hospital and here is what they found. This is a copy from the weekly meeting held at 9 am this
same day.

Architectural Assessment of Building Façade
o Building Roof
o Interior finishes
o ADA Compliance

Structural Assessment o Foundations
o Building frames
o Water damage
o Recommendations

Mechanical Assessment
o HVAC Components
o Maintenance Costs
o Service Water

Electrical assessment
o Lighting and receptacles
o Utility Service
o Emergency Back-up power
o Electrical Power Distribution Equipment

Estimated costs

Could be phased construction and use of the building doors until ADA replacement – $1,000 per door
10 doors= $10K, Wave didn’t say how many. Restrooms – $25,000 per restroom, 4 restrooms = $100K, how many are there? Wave didn’t say. How many need reconfigured? It depends on over all design.
Investigation of water intrusion – $20,000. They could not give an estimate of the
cost of repair until the investigation report was complete, in my home owner experience it will
cost more!
Structural repairs – minimal – $10,000 for fire proofing
Mechanical – $1.4 million – complete like-for-like replacement – end of life (not
necessarily needed to be the same high level as a hospital, but this was “worst case
Electrical – replacement of outdated – $50,000
If this all holds true and we just do 10 doors and four bathrooms it will cost about $1,590,000. I
think the county has 2.5 million. then there is the water issue…..

In all the Board was pleased with the numbers. Now this is me thinking. Notice there is no
number for ambience like paint, lighting and other creatures comfort like chairs, and desk.
Rooms for people that may harm themselves, cameras and a way to process that data. Then
there is security and making areas inaccessible from patients and public. We need workers to
feel safe and able to practice without fear and in comfort. Some of this capital spending we need
upfront with security doors, hard-wired cameras and then bullet-proof windows. I’m not sure
security has been mentioned much.

There is easily another million or two they will need to get the building going before people are in it. It sounds like the .01% tax is just for operational needs. Staff and support staff for such a large facility needs discussion, maybe cities can pitch in. Cities will save resources in areas that the CRC will cover.

Who knows? This is what the planning meetings are for. There are more coming. We need a nice facility to help people move forward in a positive way.

Retraining facility?

Those were the three issues discussed during the meeting. I will add, a lady said she was
worried if we built this the Federal government may take it over and teach people what to think?
She said she wasn’t a conspiracy theorist. I have only heard of Retraining facilities in Russia, N.
Korea and China. No one confirmed this wouldn’t happen, so who knows maybe she is
right…..Everyone at the meeting was in favor of this project with or without Franklin County.

*Meet Mike

Hi, I am Mike Lowery and will be helping the Observer cover events in Benton County. I have
spent about 25 years of my 60 year life in the Tri-Cities, most in Richland. After Army and a
short career working on boats I went on to college at CBC. Then I worked 15 years on
commercial nuclear power plants. We moved back to Tri-Cities and been in Richland for 20
years. I tried to help Hanford for 18 years. I have three degrees from Columbia Basin College,
yes that’s weird. Studied economics and religion at Liberty University, St. Leos College in FL,
University of Illinois, University of Washington more at CBC. House dad now to my working wife,
two cats and a dog. Our boy’s all work and study in the northwest. I spend time riding my eletric
bike or crashing it, building small wood and metal projects, enjoying Electronic Music and
camping. Writing is something I love to do but not very good at it.

Franklin County Commission continues to grapple with mask issue — guest report from Leona Hassing*

Franklin County Courthouse

Commissioners meeting on Tuesday 8/31/21:

Didier wore no mask. Shawn Sant, Franklin Co. prosecuting attorney, again gave the rationale for wearing the masks. Didier argued back and forth with him.

Peck suggested and made a motion to move the meeting to ZOOM in 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, the meeting resumed with Didier and Mullen in the meeting room and Peck in his office. There were several audience members who had to sit and wait during the 30-minute break. .

At the end of the meeting, audience members commented.  Didier had his followers there to comment using the standard talking points.  Franklin Co. Democratic Chair Jeffrey Robinson commented on how embarrassing it was to have this kind of leadership in Franklin Co.  There was also one phone-in caller.  

There is no meeting next week, due to nothing important on the agenda. The following meeting is a night meeting on September 14.

*Leona Hassing, formerly a resident of Richland who now lives in Pasco, closely follows a number of Tri-Cities government agencies.

Man shot by Richland police charged in the case

A special prosecutor appointed by Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller has charged Charlie Suarez with driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license the night he was shot by a Richland police officer.

On Feb. 1 Suarez rolled his vehicle on the I-182 Wellsian Way exit near Fred Meyer and ran from the scene. Police Officer Christian Jabri shot at him five times after spotting him on a pedestrian path.  Jabri said that he thought Suarez was reaching for a gun. Suarez said he had his hands up. 

According to Miller, he appointed Kennewick City Attorney Lisa Beaton to review the Washington State Patrol report which recommended criminal charges against Suarez “to avoid any conflict of interest or appearance of conflict of interest.”

Beaton’s office reported that Suarez has been charged with the two gross misdemeanors.

The next pre-trial hearing for Suarez is scheduled for Sept. 23 at 1:00 p.m. in Benton County District Court.

Plan for police cameras, allocation of millions in federal funding, Richland council’s Aug. 24 workshop, Randy’s Roundup

Back to Zoom

Correction: a typographical error has been corrected on the price for police cameras, $247,952.80

Richland City Council will meet in a virtual workshop on Tuesday to discuss the budget, the plan for police cameras and the allocation of millions from the American Rescue Plant Act.

Instructions for watching the meeting are at the top of the agenda.

Richland city staff wants guidance from the council on how to spend over $7 million dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). At the top of the list is $1.5 million to pay utilities for residents and businesses in Richland who have been impacted by COVID-19.

Staff recommends $2.6 million to beef up broadband infrastructure, $250,000 for small business assistance. Also on the list is $3 million for a sewer extension to North Horn Rapids to enhance industrial development.

The money has to be allocated by 2022 and spent by 2024.

The Washington State Legislature passed bills during the 2021 session to require electronic recording of custodial interrogations. The police need cameras to accomplish that.

Richland Police Chief Bruce proposes 68 body worn cameras, 27 dashboard cameras and 5 interview rooms plus back office tools and storage. The “subtotal” for all of these is $247,951.80. This isn’t the first time that the use of the word “subtotal” has been confusing. Hopefully, the workshop discussion will provide more information.

The amount is approximately the amount that the city will receive in a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The council will also hear a mid-year financial report that will include a comparison of revenue and expenditures.

Commander Jon Law picked to replace recalled Benton Sheriff Jerry Hatcher — guest report from Mike Lowery

Correction: The number of openings in the sheriff’s department has been corrected

The Benton County Commission has chosen Commander Jon Law, currently second in command of the Benton County Sheriff’s office, as an interim replacement for recalled Sheriff Jerry Hatcher. Law will be sheriff until the commission choses from a three-person list provided by the Benton County Republican Party. Hatcher was elected as a Republican.

The Benton County Republican Party said that they will present three names to the commission by the first week of September. The commission will choose one of those three to be sheriff until a new one is voted for in the November 2022 election.

According to Commissioner Shon Small, the department has lost 26 employees since 2018 and currently has 14 openings. A job list online shows seven openings in the sheriff’s office.

Not counting the 40-minute executive session, the meeting only lasted 11 minutes. The commissioners said it was a tough decision, apparently addressing the people in the audience who had applied for the job.

Fantasy taxes, resurrection of the pre-meeting, school children vs. developers – Randy’s Rundown on the Richland Council’s August 17 meeting

Update Tue. morning: Interim City Manager Jon Amundson confirms that the city will retain a 30′ easement on the Davenport Road extension property as a pedestrian path that can be improved in the future.

Councilmember Terry Christensen hasn’t worried about ignoring the city charter on ethics committees, city manager’s place of residence and other issues. Now he’s ready to re-write the whole thing to address his fantasy problem. According to Christensen, IF the Washington State Supreme Court decides that city income taxes are constitutional and IF Richland decides to have an income tax, it would be bad for business.

While the IF, IF, IF thing is giving him nightmares, he has sweet dreams about resurrecting the pre-meeting that most residents thought was a private, councilmembers only affair before it was axed almost two years ago. Because, gosh, if you don’t read your packet, you need that meeting to have the agenda explained to you.

These two Christensen initiatives will be discussed at the end of the city council meeting. Try to stay awake until then.

The promised 30-foot easement that children who live near Wellsian Way use to walk to school may be on the chopping block. No mention is made of it in the notice for a public hearing to approve the giveaway of the unused Davenport Road right-of-way, Item 8.

To be one step ahead of Christensen, read the packet. Page numbers following the items below correspond to the pages in the packet. Instructions for commenting are at the top of the agenda.

1.Richland Police Chief John Bruce will explain that now that the Washington State Legislature has banned chokeholds and high speed chase he had no choice but to hire an officer with experience firing 27 times at a fleeing vehicle.

2. Picking up where former City Manager Cindy Reents left off, Interim City Manager Jon Amundson will give a COVID-19 update.

PUBLIC HEARING If you follow the rules on the agenda you can comment on Item 3.

3. This amends the 2022-2027 Transportation Improvement Program to include a grants for $1,494,449. These funds will go to the Stevens Drive pavement preservation and the Vantage Highway Pathway. Pg. 52-57.

4. Approval of the minutes from the August 2 and August 9 meetings. Pg. 8-15

5. New rules for accepting gifts. This describes what the city manager will have authority to accept and what the council must approve. Pg.16-20

6. Amendments to the 2021 budget to add solid waste environmental funding (the landfill), sidewalk repair, pavement stripping truck, and repayment to a developer for a street. Pg. 21-25

7. Brad Tapani will pay $828,141 for 8.09 acres on Logan Street in the Horn Rapids Business Center. His price was based on 2018 appraisals. New appraisals are on the agenda. Pg. 26-44

8. This sets September 21, 2021 as the public hearing date for the giveaway of the Davenport right-of-way. The paperwork here makes NO mention of the promised preservation of the 30-foot easement that neighborhood school children use to walk to the crossing light to Carmichael Middle School and Richland High School. We’ll soon see if the councilmembers really care about families. Pg. 45-47

9. There’s a new price list for the city’s Horn Rapids business property, Tapani got in under the wire. Prices went up. Pg. 48-52

10. See Item 3.

11. Tri-City Development Corporation has filed a final plat approval to divide 26.2 acres into 109 residential lots in the Badger Mountain South development. Pg. 58-87

12. An agreement with WRH associates related to the Horn Rapids Landfill Gas-to-Fuel Project. The city will make $100,000 a year for the next 30 years. Pg. 88-94

13. Wendy Higgins is re-appointed to the Tri-City Regional Hotel-Motel Commission. Pg. 95-96

14. July checks. Page. 97-172.

15. Pre-meeting Pg. 173

16. Prohibition on Local Income Tax. Pg. 174-176

City Manager and City Councilmembers do more blah, blah, blah.

“Robbing Peter to pay Paul without a plan,” the Richland Council votes no on transit tax referendum, Randy’s Recap August 9

Richland City councilmembers agreed last night that without a more detailed plan, they were unwilling to reduce the Ben Franklin Transit sales tax funding to pay for a mental health facility. As Councilmember Bob Thompson put it, he was against “Robbing Peter to pay Paul with no plan.” Councilmember Terry Christensen did not attend the special meeting.

Benton and Franklin County commissions have pushed for the referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot that would ask voters to divert .1% of the .6% transit sales tax to fund a mental health facility. Thompson complained that the counties collect money that they don’t spend.

Councilmember Phil Lemley, who represents the city on the Ben Franklin board had asked the council at their Aug. 2 meeting for instructions on how to vote at the Aug. 12 Ben Franklin Board meeting. A resolution on the agenda would DECLINE to support a referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Lemley pointed out that voters had approved the .6% sales tax for Ben Franklin in a vote almost 20 years ago.

At last night’s meeting councilmembers said that it was too late to put a referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot. The referendum would have to be in February instead.

Mayor Ryan Lukson said that he thought there was a plan in place for the mental health facility, but it had not been shared with the community.

Councilmember Sandra Kent wondered, “What did they select this funding mechanism and try to ram it through?”

The Council voted to direct Lemley to vote against the referendum plan during the Ben Franklin Aug. 12 board meeting.

Lukson said, “We need a meeting to hear concrete plans.”

Richland Council to vote on reducing bus funding, Randy’s Rundown of the August 9 special meeting

The Richland City Council will hold a special meeting on Monday, Aug. 9 to decide whether to support a proposal from the Benton County and Franklin County Commissions to fund new mental health services by reducing funding for Ben Franklin Transit.

Councilmember Phil Lemley represents the city on the Ben Franklin Transit Board. At the Aug. 2 council meeting Lemley asked the council to decide how they want him to vote on the issue when it comes before the board.

The agenda for the special meeting includes Ben Franklin’s 2022 budget and tax revenue projections.

The county commissions propose reducing the .6% in sales tax that the agency currently receives to .5%. The reduction would require a referendum on the November 2, 2021 ballot.

Under state law, the commissions could raise the sales tax .1% or about a penny on $10.00 without a referendum.

Opponents of the change argue that while a .1% reduction doesn’t sound like much, it represents about $7 million or approximately 17% of the $44 million budget based on 2021 figures. About $35 million of that came from the transit tax.

Opponents also argue that cutting funding for public transit hurts many of the people that the community seeks to help with improved mental health services.

The resolution on the Ben Franklin agenda for Aug. 12 is to DECLINE placing the matter on the Nov. 2 ballot.

This spring Benton County received $2.7 million from the state to study building a mental health facility on 4 acres the county already owns.

The plan to rehab the old Kennewick General Hospital for the facility collapsed when the current owner of the building, LifePoint Health, wanted non-compete restrictions on the sale. LifePoint, a for-profit corporation, owns both Trios Hospital in Kennewick and Lourdes Hospital in Pasco. Lourdes provides some mental health services. LifePoint is owned by Apollo Global Management which currently sells on the New York Stock Exchange for $61.40 a share.

The council will meet at 6:00 p.m. for the special meeting that can be viewed in person at city hall, by ZOOM, or by watching City View Channel 192.

Thirty-three seconds, five shots in the dark, two stories, Richland police release investigation report for February 1 shooting

Thirty-three seconds after Richland Police Officer Christian Jabri spotted the unarmed Charlie Suarez on the pedestrian trail between Cottonwood Drive and the SR 240 bypass highway, he shot at him five times. Two of the bullets hit Suarez in the left knee and right thigh. Three missed and haven’t been found. 

Suarez had rolled his vehicle on the I-182 Wellsian Way exit near Fred Meyer and ran from the scene. Jabri and other Richland police officers looked for him in the wintertime darkness. 

The two people involved have different stories about what happened during their brief contact. Richland police officers do not have body cameras, but the process is underway to provide them by next year.

The following is information from the 5,319-page Special Investigative Unit (SIU) report1 that the Observer obtained via a public record request made to the City of Richland.

The rollover

On Feb. 1, 2021, Suarez had the day off from his 12-hour shifts at the Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) plant in Wallula, WA. He stopped by the Pasco home of Eloisa Ramirez, the mother of two of his children. He wanted to take the children to Chuck E Cheese in Kennewick.

According to Ramirez, Suarez pounded on her house and they argued. She told investigators that Suarez tried to hit her with his car.

Suarez drove away from Ramirez’s home. He told investigators that he was trying to decide whether to drive to Chelan to see his mother. He knew he needed gas for the three-hour trip, so he got off I-182 at Wellsian Way. He admitted later that he was driving too fast when he rolled his white 2002 GMC Denali at the curve.

The first thing he remembered was feeling like he was in a fishbowl looking at the windows and seeing people peering in at him. He climbed out of the passenger side door and started running up Thayer Drive. He said he ran because he didn’t have a driver’s license.

Police respond

According to Southeast Communications Center (SECOMM) records, a call came in at 6:58 p.m. that there had been a rollover. Several more calls followed. The reporting caller originally said that the accident was behind Walmart but called again to say it was behind Fred Meyer.

At the time of the accident, Jabri was at the police station on George Washington Way. He was preparing to respond to a call about an “unwanted person” at WinCo on Columbia Point Drive.

Jabri heard dispatch call out that a driver of a rolled vehicle had fled and realized that the location near Wellsian Way was in his patrol area. He told dispatch he was going to help find  the fleeing driver.

By 7:05 p.m. — seven minutes after the first call — five patrol units had been assigned to the search. Jabri followed another patrol car south on Thayer Drive from Lee Street, then turned and drove west on Cottonwood Drive searching that area.

Dispatch records show that by about 7:06 p.m., police had the license plate number for Suarez’s Denali SUV.  SIU records don’t show whether dispatch ran the numbers and told police about the owner.

The SIU report indicates Richland police didn’t know the name of the fleeing man until after he was shot. Jabri said in his statement that he didn’t learn Suarez’s name until the next day and he had never heard of him.

A memo in the SIU report also notes that Richland police didn’t know about the incident in Pasco.

Officers found one empty bottle of beer in Suarez’s car.  A blood sample taken within two hours after his accident showed his blood alcohol level at .058, under the .08 legal limit. The only other drug in his system was the opioid pain reliever that Richland Fire Department medics gave him in the ambulance.


As Suarez ran up the trail behind Cottonwood Drive, he sent threatening text messages to Ramirez. He also called his mother in Chelan and told her that he had had an accident and was probably going to jail.

SECOMM records show that at 7:12 p.m. — 14 minutes into the call —  Jabri radioed that he was checking the walking trail in his car. He bumped over the curb and started driving down the trail with his headlights on and shining a spotlight to illuminate the area.

Jabri spotted Suarez at about 36 seconds later and told the dispatcher to send a backup. 

Nineteen seconds after that, Jabri started chasing Suarez on foot.

According to Jabri, Suarez didn’t obey commands to get on the ground, made threatening gestures and kept reaching into his waistband as if going for a gun.

Suarez said that when Jabri shined this spotlight on him, he just gave up. 

“I can’t really run and all of my stuff’s in the car,” he said in his statement.

Suarez said he responded to Jabri’s commands and had his hands over his head. 

Jabri drew his weapon, which had a mounted flashlight, but said he reholstered it when he didn’t see a gun in Suarez’s hand.

At that moment, according to Jabri, Suarez turned and yelled and cursed at him while reaching into his waistband.

When Suarez started running toward him, Jabri believed that he had a gun and said, “I believed I could not see the gun because it might have been a black weapon.”  

At 7:13 p.m., 33 seconds after spotting Suarez on the trail, Jabri shot at Suarez five times.

One minute and seven seconds after Jabri called for a backup unit, it arrived at 7:13:46 p.m. — 34 seconds after he shot Suarez.

Suarez said he didn’t rush Jabri, that he instead tried to put his hands on the ground. That’s when he heard gunshots and was hit.

After the shooting

Police found five shell casings from Jabri’s sidearm at the scene. Investigators never located three of the bullets, believing the rounds landed in a berm next to a homeowner’s fence, too deep in the dirt to be located by their metal detector.

A jogger using a headlamp on the trail at that time wondered if police considered bystanders.

She said that in just a few seconds she could have been in the line of fire.

Police Officer Kevon Skinner arrived at the trail area shortly after the shooting. In the transcript of his statement, he described how dark the area was.

“I remember thinking there could be 100 people walking down there and I would never know until I get right up on them,” Skinner said.

In his statement Jabri said, “I yelled at the suspect to ‘get down’ multiple times. I did not have any option for cover, and I was completely exposed. My patrol vehicle was far from my location. Directly behind me and to the sides of me were open areas with no cover.”

Jabri didn’t explain why he chose to chase Suarez on foot in the dark in such a vulnerable area instead of waiting for backup units that he knew were nearby.

What next?

The SIU  turned its report over to Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller at the end of June.

Officers from departments in the region that are not involved in the case under investigation are chosen for the SIU. Commander Randy Maynard of the Kennewick Police Department headed this investigation.

The SIU assistant commanders were Cpt. Jeff Harpster of the Pasco Police Department and Lt. Aaron Clem of the Kennewick Police Department. Eleven other officers from Pasco, Kennewick and Walla Walla police departments and the Washington State Police participated in the investigation.

Miller will decide if the officer should be charged in the case. Any policy violations are left to the police department. Miller can take as long as he wants to make his decision.

Franklin Prosecutor Shawn Sant waited until July 2, 2021, over a year after receiving the SIU report on the fatal shooting of unarmed Dante Jones in November 2019, before announcing that there would be no charges in the case. Franklin County Deputy Cody Quantrell shot Jones during a traffic stop.

On July 1, 2021, Miller emailed the Observer that he had given the report to an outside panel of five elected state prosecutors for review. It is only the second case that has been submitted for this process. 

The first panel took almost three months to review the case that they received. The panel determined that the shooting of Jenoah Donald, a black motorist killed by a Clark County deputy, was justified.

1The SIU report includes 3000 pages from Suarez’s Instagram account and 500 pages of redacted medical records.

Richland Councilmember Christensen wants to bring back pre-meetings, Randy’s recap Aug. 2 council meeting

Richland Councilmember Terry Christensen

Richland City Councilmember Terry Christensen announced at the Tuesday night council meeting that he wants to bring back the pre-meetings.  

The pre-meetings weren’t televised and produced no minutes and no recordings or videos. The councilmembers talked about, well, whatever.

Until about two years ago, the pre-meetings occurred about 30 minutes before the regular meeting. It was noted at the top of the regular meeting agenda with sometimes a couple of items listed under it.

At one pre-meeting that the Observer attended the councilmembers talked about how they were going to deep-six a petition for a referendum on selling marijuana in Richland. Not even the petitioners were aware that the matter would be discussed.

Residents interested in a particular city issue never knew when it might be the subject of a pre-meeting.

After Ryan Lukson became mayor two years ago, the pre-meetings ended. Councilmember Sandra Kent said that City Attorney Heather Kintzley was responsible for ending the pre-meetings.

Christensen claimed that Kintzley was “comfortable” although perhaps not happy about resuming them.

Christensen may have missed the 10 minutes in the pre-meetings devoted to discussing the regular agenda items. Councilmembers often demonstrate during the meetings that they haven’t read the packet of information given to them several days before the meetings.

Christensen suggested that the newly resurrected pre-meetings start at 5:30 p.m. He said that since he’s retired that’s not a problem for him.

Washington State open meeting laws are among the most lax in the country. A meeting of a majority of councilmembers must be public; requirements beyond that are few.

Before the council and staff moved into the new city hall, they held the pre-meeting in a small room with a few chairs for any residents who came in.  Many thought the meetings were private.

After the city moved into the new council chamber, pre-meetings continued in the new location but council meeting attendees would often wait outside assuming the meeting was closed. The council never went out of the way to indicate otherwise.

The council decided to put this discussion on the next meeting’s agenda.

Randy’s Rundown: the Richland council’s Aug. 2 special meeting explained

The council is having their first meeting of the month on Monday instead of Tuesday so councilmembers and staff can attend the National Night Out on Tuesday night. Since the meeting is not at the regular time, it’s considered a “special meeting.”

According to the National Night Out organization: “National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live.”

Information on how to watch the meeting and how to comment for both the hearings and the public comment section are on the top of the agenda.  The page numbers below correspond to the pages in the packet that are included with the agenda.

1.Mayor Lukson will recognize the retirement of Fire & Emergency Services Captain/Paramedic Ryan Nielsen, who retired after 31 years with the City of Richland. Pg. 4

2, Newly hired employees and those retiring are invited to attend the first meeting each month to be introduced to Council. Pg. 5

Public Hearing

3. The 2021 budget will be amended to move around funding for sidewalks, the paving stripe truck, the solid waste operation, and a payback to a developer for a road. Page. 23-27

Consent Calendar

4. Approval of the minutes from the July 20 and July 27 meetings. Pg. 7-17

5. On occasion, citizens desire to make donations to the City of Richland. Donations to the City typically come in the form of cash, property, or equipment, and may be conditional or unconditional. The municipal code will be amended to allow the city manager to make decisions about small donations. The city council will still consider large donations. Pg. 18-22

6. This amends the zoning to allow the waterfront district to have parks and to increase the residential density in the waterfront district and the commercial use districts. Pg. 28-93

7. To authorize carrying over $66,774,494 of unexpended appropriations to the 2021 budget.  Page 93-99

8. This authorizes submission of grant applications to the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board for the Downtown Connectivity Improvements project and the Marcus Whitman School Walking Routes Improvements project. The school project is for sidewalks.  Both grants require matching funds. The Connectivity grant requires matching funds for about $2,000,000 over two years. Public Works Director Pete Rogalsky suggested that the city might have a better chance at the grant if it doubles the match and makes it $4 million. The Marcus Whitman sidewalks match is $100,000. Pg. 100-102

9. Calvin Matson wants to buy 5 acres in North Horn Rapids next to the five he was approved to purchase at the July 27 meeting. The price is $511, 830. Matson must build something on the property within the next 18 months are the sale is null and void. 103-119

10. The council will accept a Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation Grant for External Automated Defibrillators. A gift!! See Item 5.   Page 120

City manager and city council blah, blah, blah. If Bob Thompson is absent again, it will only be blah, blah.

Randy’s Recap: Richland Council’s July 27 workshop – surplus property, transportation grants, electricity for North Horn Rapids

During Richland City Council workshops which are held monthly, councilmembers receive information about issues before the city. The Council does not vote or take citizen comments at workshops. Sometimes the matters discussed come before the council later for a vote and then residents can comment publicly. Until then, residents can email the councilmembers their opinions.

The Observer was the only resident at Richland City Hall for the July 27 city council workshop. Following are her notes on the meeting.

Declaring Property at Lawless and Thayer Surplus

Based on the discussion at the Tuesday night workshop, the Richland City Council intends to proceed to declare the property at the intersection of Lawless Drive and Thayer Drive as surplus.

Only four members of the council were present at the meeting, Councilmembers Phil Lemley, Terry Christensen, Michael Alvarez and Marianne Boring.

Public Works Director Pete Rogalsky made a presentation to the council with details on the property.

Rogalsky explained that the Washington State Department of Transportation placed restrictions on the sale of the two parcels of property when they were given to the city. The city must repay the highway commission for the money they paid for one parcel. Proceeds from a sale of the other parcel must go to street improvements.

He noted that the Economic Development Committee recommended the property be designated surplus when it met on May 24, 2021. The Planning Commission did the same on May 26, 2021.

The property has no zoning attached to it as it is not included in the city’s comprehensive plan. The process to determine the land use designation could take well into next year according to Rogalsky.

Rogalsky pointed out that a developer could buy the undesignated property and work through the zoning process. He recommended the city decide on the best land use for the property before selling it so the land could be more accurately valued.

A city council vote on declaring the property surplus could occur as early as next week.

Transportation Grant Opportunities

Rogalsky also went through a list of possible transportation grant opportunities.

He said that the Marcus Whitman Elementary School area has gaps in the sidewalks that children use to walk to school. He wants to apply to the Washington Transportation Improvement Board for funding to fill in those gaps.

He suggested to the council that they up the amount of matching funds they were willing to contribute for the downtown connectivity project. [Note: The Observer asked Iterim City Manager for clarification on the dollar amount increase but has not received a response.] The project includes making Jadwin Avenue and George Washington Way one way in the downtown area. Sidewalks and bikeways would be part of a package of other improvement. He said that if the city was willing to kick in more money, their grant application to the state might receive more attention.

The council generally approved of that idea. Christensen said that the additional funding would have to be part of the budget process so that the impact to other projects could be considered. The other councilmembers present agreed with that approach.

North Horn Rapids Transmission Planning & Scheduling

Clint Whitney, Energy Services Director, discussed the schedule for building the new transmission line to the substation at North Horn Rapids that will serve some of the new industrial users in that area of town.

Whitney noted, “We don’t have a generation issue. We have a transmission issue.”

Whitney outlined plans for transmission projects that will provide power to other newly developed areas of Richland.

Kennewick Police Department still smarting from police reforms

Stabbed Kennewick Police Car

Update: July 26, 2021, 11:45 p.m. Kennewick Police Department reports that pepperball guns are on order.

Of the Tri-Cities, only the City of Kennewick opposed police reform in the last Washington State Legislative Session. Reform legislation passed and apparently, the Kennewick Police Departments (KPD) hasn’t come to terms with that.

A media release on July 27 about officers’ response to a disturbance at 1001 W. 4th Ave. in Kennewick describes how Kennewick officers successfully apprehended a woman throwing dishes and rocks and armed with scissors and kitchen knives which she used to slash their tires.

The successful conclusion of the event, the 28-year-old in custody and injury only to two police cars, didn’t stop Kennewick police from complaining about police reforms. According to the media release, H.B. 1054 prohibits the KPD from using their 37mm impact baton because it is larger than .50 caliber. They had to call in the Pasco Police with their pepperball gun to help.

Through public record requests earlier this year, the Observer obtained the emails from each of the Tri-Cities between city officials and staff and their Olympia lobbyists. In an email on January 12, 2021, Police Chief Ken Hohenberg, who also serves as a Kennewick Assistant City Manager, opposed the reform bill H.B. 1054.  and instructed the city lobbyists, Tom McBride and Ben Buchholz, to oppose it as the city’s representatives in Olympia.

When the Observer emailed the members of the Kennewick City Council to ask if the council had discussed a position on the police reform, only two wrote back. Both Councilmember Jim Millbauer and Councilmember Chuck Torrelli pointed to the discussion at the July 14, 2020, Kennewick City Council meeting.

At that time the council seemed to accept Hohenberg’s position supporting choke holds and other methods prohibited in H.B. 1054. Hohenberg said, “Police Officers have to have the option or we’ll have more dead officers.”

Pasco took the opposite approach. Before the last legislative session, Pasco City Council formally adopted this position: “Pasco encourages [their emphasis] the state to enact reforms to our state’s criminal justice system. Pasco has taken bold steps to reform policing locally and calls on the state to follow suit.”

According to Interim City Manager Jon Amundson, “The City of Richland supported the AWC (Association of Washington Cities) in their position on behalf of cities, ‘support local control over city law enforcement to meet the needs of each community while recognizing the need for certain statewide reforms.’”

No word on whether KPD plans to buy a peppergun.

Randy’s Rundown: proposal to surplus and sell Thayer property and two other items will be the subject of July 27 Richland council workshop

Bush family 2.02 acres outlined in orange. Proposed surplus property outlined in blue.

The Tuesday Richland City Council workshop agenda includes three items. The packet includes just the bare bones information. The Observer emailed Interim City Manager Jon Amundson and he provided more information on the Thayer Property.

Here is the information provided by Amundson:

Notice the first paragraph after the summary: “Staff has received developer interest in several parcels of City-owned property off of the south end of Thayer Drive.” Bargain price sale of city-owned properties always starts out this way.

Also up for discussion:

North Horn Rapids Transmission Planning & Scheduling – Clint Whitney, Energy Services Director

Transportation Grant Opportunities – Pete Rogalsky, Public Works Director   Rogalsky works hard for transportation grants.