Another Twist In Spokane Raceway Saga

SPOKANE — Reversing a decision he’d made last week, Judge Robert Austin opened up the possibility for an expedited decision on Spokane Raceway Park’s pending sale to Spokane County.

On Thursday, June 19th, Judge Austin recused himself from overseeing the sale because of a perceived conflict of interest. However, in a two page order signed Monday, he reversed that decision with strong language that indicated he felt the request to appoint a third party overseer was a blatant delay tactic that had no legal merit.

A Seattle attorney representing three of the more than 100 shareholders of the Park asked that the judge remove himself from the proceedings because he had attended the park’s April auction. Judge Austin said the attendance was an extension of court proceedings and denied wrongdoing, but the attorneys said it gave the appearance of impropriety.

Last Thursday, Judge Austin acquiesced and said he would step aside from approving the sale. However, on Monday, he changed his mind, saying he would not appoint a “special master” to oversee the sale – as he’d indicated – but would do so himself – as was the plan until late last week.

A hearing will now be held Thursday afternoon in which it’s possible that the sale could be approved, however Spokane County was anticipating the possibility of another effort to block the sale by Seattle attorney Jerome Shukin, who first made the request of Judge Austin’s recusal.

Spokane County spokesperson Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter said there was a good chance that, on Thursday, Judge Austin would approve the sale that’s turned into an ongoing saga for those involved with both the county and the property. However, she said that it’s entirely possible an unforseen issue could postpone the sale once again and it wouldn’t be known until Thursday what the future will hold.

She added that Judge Austin’s decision Monday meant he would be on the lookout for obvious delay tactics and would only entertain requests made on solid legal grounds.