SPOKANE, Wash. – Questions still remain about tree removal near the Qualchan Golf Course that sparked outrage among some people in the area.
As of Friday evening, no one is taking responsibility for approving the removal of trees along the bluff near the golf course. The contractor who did the works said he has hired an attorney to help him get in front of this whole mess. His attorney, Bob Dunn, provided KREM 2 with copies of emails between all parties involved that talk about removing trees from that area.
"So when the city says we don't know anything about this their fingerprints and DNA are all over this crime scene," said Dunn.
Dunn is now representing Adam Swedberg, the contractor who built a road and removed trees from parks conservation land along the bluff on the South Hill. Emails back and forth show discussion between the contractor, Avista, the Parks and Recreation Department and First Tee about building a par 3 golf course near the Qualchan Golf Course and removing trees in the area.
There is also a signed permit dated January 20, 2017 that reads, "All reasonable and necessary tree removals for the development and construction of proposed 3-hole project." City leaders said the permit is only for the six acres adjacent to the Qualchan driving range, not for the access road. Dunn disagrees.
"The permit is for the project and right alongside with Avista permission to use the right of way. There isn't any question that the roadway was going to be built," said Dunn.
Dunn also provided a letter from Avista to First Tee dated December 20, 2016 that reads in part, "Avista is the beneficiary of certain easements granting it the right to clear the Transmission Corridor, to access, maintain and repair the transmission lines located with the Corridor."
Another email sent by an Avista employee reads, "We've authorized First Tee to do some logging near our 9th and Central - Sunset line but asked that they contact us about our standards and safe work practices once they got closer to doing the work. It sounds like they are ready to get going."
When KREM 2 questioned Avista about this, they said they gave First Tee authorization to do the project near the corridor but said they do not have the authority to authorize work to start or authorize permits for work to start. City leaders also claim there was no permit for the roadway and said they never authorized work to begin either. Dunn said someone from the city, Avista and the contractor did walk the site and emails talk about a road being built.
"You can see they signed off on the permit, I mean what did they think they were doing when they signed off on the permit a year ago? What did they think they were doing when they went had people going on the right of way with our client and Avista's people identifying where the roadway was going to be situated?" Dunn explained.
The city also flagged trees along the roadway for removal. City leaders said that does not mean they gave the approval for them to be removed. Dunn also had a recording of a voicemail left on the contractor's phone by a city employee talking about marking trees.
“Hey Adam this is Jeff. Just realized I had some marking tape. On my way out I'll go ahead and flag some trees that might be able to take out. It's orange flagging tape, you'll see it, alright thanks bye,” the voicemail said.
The city released a statement late Friday afternoon saying they will continue to investigate the misunderstanding and take steps to restore the land.
"The real offending thing is, I guess the city dropped the ball not asking the tree huggers out there who were going to be offended by having a couple of these trees knocked down. Well, that's on them. That's not on the contractor," said Dunn.