I asked the new S-R Ombudsman Dr. Becky Tallent, ” . . . do you care?” This was after S-R Editor Steve Smith banned me from his blog after I commented following his post on Public records and state audit – “S-R Pot Calling the Kettle Black?” This was a snarky remark about the S-R’s continued relationship with Duane Swinton of Whiterspoon & Kelley (See here and here for context).

It’s refreshing though to see that the S-R is now using outside counsel to represent it in matters regarding RPS:

Interesting though Mr. Smith confirms the S-R is seeking documents that the City is now holding and is using outside counsel to obtain. These are more than likely the Lewis documents that I challenged S-R Reporter Jonathan Brunt to seek. It was expected the City Attorney would block their release. It will be interesting to see how vigorously the S-R will pursue these documents.

Ron the Cop


Dear Det. Wright,

Do I care? Yes, I care passionately and deeply about ethics of all kinds. Media ethics are a special cause of mine and I am delighted to see newspapers such as The Spokesman-Review actually spend the time, money and Herculean effort to create a comprehensive code of ethics.

FYI – Here is the difference between the S-R code and the voluntary SPJ code: the S-R will be able to enforce its code, plus I know Steve Smith and Gary Graham just well enough to understand it will be enforced for anyone who is employed by the newspaper, even Steve, Gary and me. Voluntary groups, such as SPJ, cannot enforce their codes because it would be unconstitutional for such an organization to require all people within a field to obey a code when membership in that organization is not required for employment. Employers, however, can create codes that can – and in this case will – be enforced for employees.

Now, speaking of ethical conduct, I personally find the actions of you and your cronies absolutely reprehensible in your latest vitriol against The Spokesman-Review. To make accusations of criminal conduct without an apparent shred of evidence that is acceptable to working law enforcement authorities is disgraceful, unethical and shrieks volumes about you, your group of friends and your obvious disregard for the truth. What I am seeing is that you are trying to using smoke and mirrors claiming fraud and even murder while you try to justify your conspiracy theories. Sorry, that will not wash with me. If you had any real evidence then the Washington Attorney General or any other reliable law enforcement organization would take up your cause in a heartbeat. As a retired law enforcement officer, I know you understand that concept very well, or at least should. Because active legal agencies have not taken up your cause, for your group to continue to spread speculation and invention is deplorable. Shame on you for screaming about ethics when you do not follow any ethical precepts yourself.

In the future, please take any complaints you will have directly to the Washington Press Council – despite your current cries to their offices, SPJ is not an investigative/legal authority — and I am washing my hands of you and your group. As Steve Smith said, should you be able to prove your allegations, I will apologize; but until that moment, absolutely not.

Becky Tallent

Becky Tallent, Ed.D.
The Spokesman-Review
Spokane, WA


Dear Dr. Tallent, Ombudsman
Spokane, WA

Dear Dr. Tallent:

Thanks for your reply.

You may be correct regarding the Society of Professional Journalists as a membership association not being able to enforce its voluntary code of ethics. Say what you will but I do have experience in the investigation and prosecution of complex criminal fraud conspiracies over a 35-year law enforcement career in a large Southern California city. After hearing US Attorney Jim McDevitt ‘s responses on the Mark Fuhrman Radio Show, in my opinion nothing was going to happen in Spokane with the alleged RPS bond fraud until the day he recused himself from the process. There are now two ASUAs in the US Attorney’s Office in Seattle actively reviewing the information supplied to them by Tim Connor and Cherie Rodgers to decide whether a federal grand jury should be impaneled to determine if any criminal indictments are warranted. This should have happened years ago and Mr. McDevitt should have led this effort and not waited passively for a case to be brought forward to him. Mr. McDevitt’s recusal was not the result of any investigative reporting by the S-R. Mr. McDevitt’s recusal was the direct result of his appearance on the Mark Fuhrman Show. This is at the root at of my cognitive dissonance with the S-R not asking the obvious probative questions. This leads to my complaint regarding the inherent conflict of interest with the S-R and the cross-media ownership and domination of the media in the Spokane market by the Cowles Co.

As I challenged regarding media ethics, I favor those principals of the Committee of Concerned Journalists. While the Washington News Council’s study is flawed in several areas, even the Washington News Council found fault with the S-R maintaining its relationship with Duane Swinton and Witherspoon and Kelley as its legal counsel (See Camas reporting). Witherspoon and Kelley is the same law firm that represented the Cowles Co in withholding RPS documents from public disclosure. This is an inherent journalistic conflict of interest even the Washington State Bar Association in its initial ruling did not find it a legal conflict of interest. It was the same Mr. Swinton who initially fronted the seed money to Preston & Gates to create the “foundation” that the RPS bonds were issued “on behalf of” by the City of Spokane. This is the same foundation that the IRS found was a sham front by the developers when it disallowed the tax-exempt status of the first RPS bonds that “tanked” by stating the “casino” was rigged. The IRS most likely because Mr.McDevitt was subsequently appointed as US Attorney for the Eastern District of WA, fell on their sword and never pursued this case criminally as a fraud. The IRS got their back taxes I’m told of some $8M paid through Preston and Gates in a concealed deal. The IRS cited Camas Magazine documents in reaching this finding.

US Attorney Jim McDevitt
while in the employ of Preston & Gates, has billable hours associated with creation of the RPS foundation. This foundation never received a 501(c)(3) status from the IRS. He was also involved with fellow Preston & Gates Attorney Michael Ormsby in closing the escrow of the first RPS bond sale during which certain material facts were not disclosed to the institutional bond investors. The is same Mr. Ormsby that loaned Mayor Hession $10K in the last election. The S-R only belatedly reported the significance and context of Mr. Ormsby’s loan several days before election day. This was a mailed election. Fortunately many voters were holding their ballots until the last minute and may have been influenced with this information. In essence the first RPS bonds became a a gift of public funds. These bonds “tanked” and the bond investors sued for fraud. The citizens of Spokane are now saddled with repaying almost $2M per year in general fund revenue to service the debt of the second round of RPS bonds issued to repay the original defrauded bondholders.

A thought-provoking movie that is an analogy to Spokane with shaking paradigms at the micro level, is Ben Stein’s new movie Expelled. This movie perhaps may broaden your perspective:

Mayor Verner – Thoughts on Ben Stein’s new movie and Spokane

Mr. Smith can call me whatever he likes. I meant what I said. It would be refreshing for once if Mr. Smith et al would debate the facts and not dismiss so easily with a broad brush those who would question. Read the Fancher report (full report at this link). This reports precedes my arrival in Spokane regarding the Cowles Co, the “company” nature of this town and its dominance of the media that is as true today as it was when it was written. If the information amassed by Tim Connor and Larry Shook of Camas Magazine who I’ve relied on to form my professional opinion is so erroneous:

. . .To make accusations of criminal conduct without an apparent shred of evidence that is acceptable to working law enforcement authorities is disgraceful, unethical and shrieks volumes about you, your group of friends and your obvious disregard for the truth. What I am seeing is that you are trying to using smoke and mirrors claiming fraud and even murder while you try to justify your conspiracy theories.

it would be well to point to specific instances where Camas Magazine is in error. I’m sure they would readily acknowledge any misstatement of facts. The IRS found their collective work credible enough to cite as evidence in their ruling. If Camas reporting is so onerous and libelous why haven’t they been sued? The Cowles Co in the past has never been reticent in launching suits to intimidate those who would ask probative questions.

As Larry Shook recently responded Mr. Smith comments:

. . . In the insults and groundless charges he flings toward those with whom he disagrees, Smith betrays not just stunningly immature impulse control, but a disregard for the truth that is something to behold. Speak up and Smith responds by criticizing California police officers. Object and he recants by saying he meant bad California police officers, not good ones. Who are the good ones? Smith knows; ask him.

Smith’s problem, and the problem of his employers, is evidence. If he wants to discredit the evidence he’s going to have to start with it, not those who have the temerity, in the face of his slander and the character assassination of his newspaper, to cite it. A good starting place . . . is with the half-million or so unrefuted words published at www.camasmagazine.com and www.girlfromhotsprings.com.

I’m just a private citizen that enjoys the many fine attributes of Spokane and that’s why my wife chose to relocate here. I have no vested interest other than seeking the truth. I’m sorry if based on my training, education, and experience, I see things that others don’t, fail to acknowledge, and/or will tolerate. I will not be a victim or be extorted. I will not standby while robberies are committed in my presence. We are individuals citizens holding our government accountable when the normal political and governmental checks have failed because of being co-opted/corrupted by this incestuous, insidious, and malignant ongoing criminal enterprise.

This is nothing more than organized crime without the Sicilian surname that must not be tolerated and must be eliminated. Why should the citizens of Spokane be concerned? This is not a free market. In my opinion a compelling FTC antitrust case can be made regarding a clear pattern and practice of unfair business practices by the Cowles Co et al that give it an unfair competitive advantage over other businesses both new or established. New businesses are deterred from locating here because of “the company town” nature. There is a high entry level cost threshold of those who would enter this market who would also chose to challenge the Cowles Co domination.

I will hold the S-R accountable and their owners if no one else will. This has nothing to do with the credibility of me or others. The onus is on the S-R to demonstrate to its readers its own credibility. The readers will ultimately decide whether the S-R is a trusted, reliable source of news, commentary, and thought of the day that has relevance and predictability in their daily lives. I guess we will have to agree to disagree. Dr. Tallent time will tell. Again as the Ombudsman of the Spokesman-Review will you hold it accountable to any ethical standards? Will the Spokesman-Review ask the probative questions?

Will the S-R follow the lead of the Committee of Concerned Journalists?

Please remember that the fundamental responsibility of a free press is to WE THE PEOPLE and not its owners and/or their business interests. An inquisitive free press that asks the probative questions serves as a fundamental check on the abuse of power of our governmental WE THE PEOPLE chose to govern and empower.


Det. Ron Wright (Retired)