Merrick Bobb is the man tasked with overseeing the City of Seattle's settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice - a job that comes in response to the damning 2011 DOJ report that concluded Seattle's police force had an alarming pattern of using excessive force and employing biased policing.
But thanks to the digging of KIRO Radio, the focus this morning has been taken off how Bobb will help Seattle reform SPD and instead placed on items he and his firm billed the city for - like toilet paper, a corkscrew, and a $35 Egyptian cotton pillowcase.
As KIRO Radio reporter Brandi Kruse details on MyNorthwest.com, Seattle has budgeted $800,000 over the next year to pay for Bobb's work. Bobb and his Los Angeles-based consulting firm have also been given to go ahead to charge expenses associated with their work - including things like rent and furnishings at a Seattle apartment and a daily food allowance.
However, when it comes to charging the city for expenses. things got chippy last month between Bobb and the city over a December invoice.
According to KIRO Radio via MyNorthwest.com:
... in January, the budget office told Bobb's firm it had an issue with certain items being put on the city's tab, including "alcohol and alcohol-related expenses," expensive meals, toilet paper and a $35 Egyptian cotton pillowcase.
Overall concerns included a lack of itemized receipts, missing or incomplete receipts, charges that exceeded set limits, possible double charges, charges for items not allowed under city travel policies and charges on days when the team was not scheduled to work.
On Jan. 17, the city called a meeting with Bobb and his staff to address the items, during which the team was reminded that items they expense are subject to public disclosure and could "paint the Monitor or City in a bad light."
According to KIRO, the meeting - and the scrutiny - initially rankled Bobb.
More from KIRO:
Several hours after the meeting, Merrick Bobb sent an email to the city to express his frustration with what had occurred.
" ... we decline in the future to go through the humiliating, time-consuming, and obstructionist process we went through this morning where we were required to justify each pillowcase in the Seattle apartment, a toolkit to put together furniture bought at IKEA, or a $5.99 corkscrew, among other trivialities," Bobb wrote in the email, which was sent to the budget office, the City Attorney's Office and the Department of Justice.
"Although we are happy to answer legitimate inquiries, we cannot abide being treated as if we were suspects being grilled about theft from the city," he continued. "We are professionals and expect to be treated as such."
According to KIRO, Bobb went on to suggest that the hassling over expenses could be seen as a lack of cooperation from the city over the implementation of the consent decree - a statement which the station says led an anonymous source with the city to bring the email to its attention.
According to KIRO, a spokesman for the Seattle City Attorney says any issues with Bobb and his expenditures have now been resolved, and Bobb - via email - tells the station that "We each took a tone we later regretted, followed by mutual apologies." Bobb also downplayed the situation, calling it a "small dust-up."