No charges in Spokane mall dogged by scandal

SPOKANE — The complicated financial package to build the River Park Square shopping mall in downtown Spokane did not involve any criminal conduct and no charges will be filed, the U.S. attorney’s office for Western Washington concluded Friday.

A yearlong FBI investigation was supervised by the Western Washington office at the request of U.S. Attorney James ­McDevitt of Spokane, who was once a partner in Preston Gates Ellis, a law firm that represented a party in the mall project.

The $110 million mall and its garage were constructed by a combination of public and private funds, including $31 million in bonds sold to investors. It has been plagued by accusations of financial scandal since it was built a decade ago.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Westinghouse said Friday that investigators concluded there was no intent to commit fraud or other crimes by the developers. The mall is owned by the Cowles Co., which also publishes the Spokesman-Review newspaper and has many other business interests in the area.

“No federal criminal charges are appropriate,” Westinghouse told a news conference. “There will be no further federal involvement.”

Former city councilwoman Cherie Rodgers and independent journalist Tim Connor last year asked for an investigation to learn whether the project violated federal corruption laws.

“I’m disappointed,” Connor said Friday, adding he still believed there was fraud in the sale of bonds that were based on faulty revenue projections.

Marlene Feist, spokeswoman for the city, which assumed responsibility for the bonds, said the decision was expected.

“It’s a healthy thing that a thorough, independent investigation was undertaken,” said Les Weatherhead, attorney for River Park Square.

River Park Square — anchored by a Nordstrom store, movie theaters and numerous upscale shops — is credited with sparking a business boom in downtown Spokane.

But the project also tore open old wounds in Spokane related to class and income, ended numerous political careers, and brought plenty of criticism of the Cowles family.

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