In a breath-taking revelation, the Mayor’s spokesman confirms the City didn’t even negotiate with the police guild for independent investigations into citizen complaints.
Despite public assurances that he was working to implement the Proposition 1 reforms added to the Spokane city charter nine months ago, Mayor David Condon did not instruct his negotiators to bargain for the central Prop. 1 reform as they worked on a new labor agreement with the Spokane Police Guild. This is the main revelation in a lengthy investigative report by CFJ Communications Director Tim Connor published earlier today.
The article, entitled “Erasing Prop. 1,” finds that instead of working to implement the will of Spokane voters (who approved Proposition 1 by nearly 70 percent of the vote in a special election last February) the mayor has actually undermined the goal of implementing the charter amendment.
“The Office of Police Ombudsman is supposed to be the public’s watchdog on the police department,” says Connor. “The overwhelming message from voters last winter is that they’d exhausted their patience waiting for the mayor, the city attorney, and the city council to bolster the powers of the office to ensure it could independently investigate citizen complaints. That’s what Prop. 1 is all about. Realistically, the only route to get that done was to bargain for it with the Guild. The mayor just chose not to do that. And the result is the utter chaos that you see now.”
Connor reports that the Center’s lawyers and interns were stunned when CFJ confidentially obtained a copy of the 2013 “tentative agreement” (TA) that Condon had signed with Guild leadership in early October. The new “TA” was substantially the same as the agreement that Condon’s predecessor, Mary Verner, had privately negotiated with the Guild in April 2008, which was converted to city ordinance later that year. Despite the fact that Proposition 1 amended the city charter to get free of the restrictions in the 2008 ordinance, the ordinance is still on the books, and the Office of Police Ombudsman (OPO) is still not authorized to conduct independent investigations into citizen complaints. What the Center’s staff saw in the new agreement is that independent investigative authority for the OPO had simply been omitted.
In an October 16th letter, written two weeks before the City formally released the new proposed contract with the Guild, the Center’s executive director, Rick Eichstaedt, wrote to Condon and City Council President Ben Stuckart strongly objecting to the TA.
“The sum of our analysis,” Eichstaedt wrote, “is that the tentative agreement is a travesty.”
Connor first reported on Condon’s peculiar approach to police oversight a year ago, noting that even though the mayor had issued an “immediate police action plan” that ostensibly included securing investigative authority for the OPO, he didn’t seem to be in a hurry to formalize it, even though the City had been in negotiations with the Spokane Police Guild for several months by that time. Moreover, when CFJ staff members met with City Attorney Nancy Isserlis in October 2012 they were taken aback to learn from Isserlis that she professed not to know what the City was negotiating with the Guild, despite the fact that one of her assistant city attorneys, Erin Jacobson, had been negotiating with the Guild for several months.
Connor’s new report traces the history of the six year struggle to secure independence for the police ombudsman, and explains why the goal has proven so elusive.
“What it boils down to,” says Connor, “is that the mayor is responsible for securing the new charter requirements. That’s his job. His choices were to either bargain with the Guild for independent investigations for the OPO or, in the alternative, to squarely notify the Guild that the City wished to remove the 2008 language from the contract so it could reserve its managerial prerogative under state law to implement what Proposition 1 requires. He chose to do neither.”
“I don’t care why it didn’t happen,” PJALS Liz Moore told Connor when she learned on November 2nd that the mayor chose not to bargain for the independent investigatory authority that Proposition 1 requires. “It’s just unacceptable that it didn’t happen. We needed this result. The mayor didn’t get the job done, and he had twenty two months to do it.”