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Former Mattawa police chief files appeal over being fired

| April 30, 2021 1:00 AM

MATTAWA — A hearing will be scheduled, albeit at an unknown time, for the Mattawa Police Department civil service commission for an appeal from Chief Joe Harris, who was fired by Mattawa Mayor Maria Celaya April 10.

Bill Gilbert, a Spokane attorney representing Harris, said Harris is confident an unbiased review by the civil service commission would support his claim the firing was without merit.

“We filed an appeal with the civil service commission, asking them to review it,” Gilbert said.

In the appeal, Harris is asking commission chair Jesse Chiprez and commission member Amanda Perez to recuse themselves from the case because they have a conflict of interest. Olga Sanchez is the third person on the three-member commission.

If commissioners are recused, Gilbert said he is requesting replacements be appointed for Harris’ hearing. Normally, civil service commissioners are appointed by the mayor, but Gilbert said he is asking Mattawa City Council members, rather than Celaya, to appoint any replacements.

Celaya did not reply to an email asking for comment.

A hearing is supposed to be scheduled within 30 days, but Gilbert said if the process is addressed properly, he expects it to take more than 30 days.