Last week the drama centered on the the city's refusal to reimburse court-appointed monitor Merrick Bobb for toilet paper, a $35 pillow case and some booze consumed over dinner. Bobb, of course, is the man tasked with overseeing the City of Seattle's settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice aimed at reforming SPD - and the tumult surrounding the job at hand just got more deafening. Now Mayor Mike McGinn and City Attorney Pete Holmes are at odds over Holmes' involvement in police reform discussions.
As Brandi Kruse of KIRO Radio and Steve Miletich of the Seattle Times have reported, McGinn's office sent an email to Holmes Tuesday accusing the city attorney of what the Times describes as "an ethical breach of the attorney-client privilege" in interactions with Bobb over the crafting of the monitoring plan required under Seattle's settlement agreement with the DOJ. In response, the mayor's office is now pushing for what's being described as an "ethical screen" between Holmes and the attorneys representing the city in the ongoing matter.
According to the Times, Seattle Police Chief John Diaz has issues regarding some aspects of a monitoring plan proposed by Bobb, apparently concerned that it lacks specific "guidance" and goes beyond what's called for under the terms of the DOJ settlement. The Times reports that Diaz has crafted his own, different plan in response to the monitoring plan floated by Bobb.
Meanwhile, Holmes - in a move that has thoroughly pissed off the mayor - has seemingly backed Bobb's plan as a "starting point for collaboration," but has also independently contacted Bobb and proposed "an alternative path for negotiation" if Bobb doesn't want to go along with the proposal from SPD and Diaz. KIRO Radio reports that Holmes shared Diaz's monitoring proposal with Bobb, much to the mayor's chagrin.
As Kruse reported via MyNorthwest.com Tuesday afternoon:
In the email, which was written by a member of the mayor's legal counsel at his direction, Holmes is accused of violating ethical standards by sharing privileged information with Merrick Bobb, who was brought in as a consultant after a Department of Justice investigation found that Seattle police have a pattern of using excessive force.
"Your letter of today discloses a document that was transmitted to you in confidence, and uses it to undermine your client's position," the mayor's office wrote in the email, which was provided to KIRO Radio by a source that works for the city.
The document in question was a proposed monitoring plan prepared by Seattle Police Chief John Diaz.
And as the Times reports:
On Tuesday, Holmes sent a letter to Bobb and a federal attorney saying he believes the monitor's draft plan "provides the starting point for collaboration" and that the Police Department's desire for more specific guidance could be accomplished by adding an appendix to the monitoring plan.
In wording that drew the ire of the mayor's office, Holmes added, "if the Monitor would like to engage in discussions as suggested by SPD in Chief Diaz's letter, our office will assist in that process. If however, the Monitor is inclined to reject SPD's approach, our office wanted to propose an alternative path for negotiation."
Marquardt, the mayor's legal counsel, said in his email that Holmes had submitted an alternate statement for a monitoring plan that was "materially different" from the proposal submitted by Diaz.
"Executive branch departments are entitled to have legal representatives who respect confidentiality and represent their interests," Marquardt wrote.
In a statement, the City Attorney's Office denies any wrongdoing:
The City Attorney's Office categorically denies any breach of the City Attorney's ethical obligations to the City. As the independently elected City Attorney with supervisory control over litigation, he can communicate with the monitor and Department of Justice with the goal of protecting the City's interests.
According to the Times, McGinn, Marquardt, Diaz, Holmes and federal attorneys met Tuesday night in an apparent effort to mend fences.
No word on whether any fences were mended, though the Times story concludes with: "... two city officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday there appeared to be an orchestrated campaign under way to have Bobb removed."
If true, that statement probably doesn't bode well for long-term fence mending.