Australia’s Eastern Council bans City Hall newspapers

The Spokane Valley City Council in eastern Washington, in an unusual move, banned newspapers from the lobby of City Hall.

The council voted 4-2 this week to ban third-party postings from the lobbies of City Hall and the Spokane Valley Police Station, The Spokesman-Review reported.

The decision notably affects the free newspapers owned by council member Ben Wick, and the one that carries advertisements.

The city council had previously considered banning newspapers from all public properties, but a mixed-use facility that includes the Spokane Valley Senior Center was exempted.

Mayor Pam Haley and council members Rod Higgins, Arne Woodard and Laura Padden said the ban was necessary, with some saying the newspapers cannot be on city property because they contain campaign ads and election coverage.

City Attorney Cary Driskell said allowing free newspapers in the lobby of City Hall could be construed as a violation of state law.

However, the state agency that oversees Washington’s disclosure and campaign finance laws said allowing newspapers in the lobby does not violate state law.

Kim Bradford, deputy director of the Public Disclosure Commission, said agency staff reviewed Spokane Valley’s third-party publishing issues and concluded that distributing free newspapers at City Hall was legal. Bradford stressed that the opinion represents staff consensus and is not a formal decision.

Council members Tim Hattenburg and Brandi Peetz voted against banning the newspapers.

Peetz said the situation has been a waste of city resources.

Lynn A. Saleh