Posts tagged: Otto Zehm
Gerry Alexander, who retired last year as the chief justice of the Washington State Supreme Court, will serve on the city's Use of Force Commission.
The commission was created last year by former Mayor Mary Verner to review the city's handling of the police confrontation that resulted in the death of Otto Zehm in 2006. Mayor David Condon endorsed the concept and supported her choice of former Gonzaga Law School Dean Earl Martin to lead it.
Membership of the five-member committee was announced at a City Council meeting on Monday by Council President Ben Stuckart. The council is set to confirm the membership next week.
The vice chairman will be former attorney Bill Hyslop, who served as the U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington during the administration of President George H.W. Bush.
The other two members will be Ivan Bush, the Spokane Public Schools' equal opportunity officer; and Susan Hammond, director of outpatient and psychiatric services for Spokane Mental Health.
Condon has said he hopes the commission concluds its review by June.
It’s hard to imagine how Mayor Mary Verner could have lost so much ground between the primary and the November election without concerns about the Otto Zehm case eating at her base.
With some members of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane expressing the possibility of sitting out the election or even casting a vote for a Republican who served a conservative member of Congress, it became clear that Verner had a problem, a problem that became more pronounced when Tom Keefe, a former Spokane County Democratic Party chair endorsed now Mayor-elect David Condon.
There were two key questions that Verner would not answer, at least completely, for most of the campaign:
- Why did the city file a response to the lawsuit from Otto Zehm’s family indicating that officers followed proper police policies when they confronted Otto Zehm, who died from injuries he suffered in that confrontation, even though the man who led the department at the time of the confrontation, Assistant Chief Jim Nicks, felt differently?
- Was she informed about the request by Department of Justice officials to meet regarding their concerns about the behavior of the city attorney’s office?
After the now infamous “FAQ” news conference that was overshadowed by Councilman Bob Apple, Verner had what may have been her worst few weeks as mayor, including a ‘60-Minutes’-style, chase-down-the-sidewalk-while-the-politician-refuses-to-answer-questions segment that ran on KREM-TV, fresh with a moment when she put a hand over the camera complaining of the bright camera light.
Mayor Mary Verner's interview last night with Mike Fitzsimmons on KXLY 920 AM has been making the rounds on Twitter today. And it's worth a listen.
Here's some of what was said. The entire interview is in the link above.
Verner: …I do know that on your radio show you’ve helped perpetuate a lot of misinformation so I’ve been up against a series of unfolding events and a very negative misinformation campaign and I still have a lot of support in this community. So I’m really looking forward to the rest of the ballots coming in.
Fitzsimmons: You sound quite bitter.
Verner: Mike I’ve been on your show quite a few times, and I’ve also listened to some of the things that you have perpetuated on your show. I’m sorry if it comes across as bitter. I’m very disappointed in you.
Fitzsimmons: Well, we’re disappointed in you as well, which is maybe why you’re losing tonight.
Verner: Well, that’s certainly your opinion and you’ve certainly had lots of airtime to express it. ….
(The two argue about how often the mayor has accepted invitations to appear on the show.)
Fitzsimmons: I don’t want to get into it. You’re the one who brought the issue up to begin with. Perhaps you might want to look at water rates, you might want to look at the whole Otto Zehm thing if you’re really looking for the reason why you’re trailing right now.
Verner: Well, I have looked into that and those are exactly a couple of the issues that you’ve kind of put on the block that don’t have a lot of substance to them. But I’m still very pleased with the support that I have ….
Not surprisingly, the campaign of David Condon is taking full advantage of the endorsement he got from former Spokane County Democratic Chairman Tom Keefe. Keefe is featured in the Condon TV ad above and is the first endorsement listed on a Condon mailer that arrived at homes this week.
Condon, the former district director for Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, has been working to distance himself from the Republican label, though McMorris Rodgers recently headlined a fundraiser for his campaign.
Meanwhile, Verner's campaign has a released a statement from the current chairman of the Spokane County Democratic Party, David Smith. He addresses the Otto Zehm matter, which is the issue that Keefe said pursuaded him to back Condon.
“Mary Verner was not mayor when Otto Zehm died. She was sworn into office a full eighteen months after his death. She could have chosen to augment her political capital by joining in the public condemnation of Officer Thompson,” Smith said. ” Instead, despite her professed grief for the family of Otto Zehm, she chose to accept the political risk inherent in standing up for Officer Thompson’s right to a fair trial. Doing so took courage. Standing up for the constitution always does.”
Here is Smith's full statement responding to Keefe's endorsement:
Former Democratic County Chairman and one-time congressional candidate Tom Keefe said today he is reaching outside his normal partisan boundaries to endorse David Condon in the mayor's race.
Officially, municipal races in Spokane are non-partisan. But sometimes the county organization or prominent party members endorse candidates who are politically well aligned. When that happens, it's sometimes considered news, but rarely is it NEWS.
But this is not one of those cases. Instead, it's an instance of a longtime Democrat endorsing a known Republican. Keefe is a former congressional aide whose service goes all the way back to Warren G. Magnuson; he ran for Congress against Republican Rep. George Nethercutt in 2000.
Condon is the former district manager to Nethercutt's successor, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and a GOP campaigner before becoming a candidate.
The reason for the cross-party endorsement? The Otto Zehm case…
Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said last week that a campaign statement on the Otto Zehm matter wasn't meant to pin blame on others.
Responding to a news release criticizing her response to the Otto Zehm cases from her election opponent, David Condon, Verner released her own statement on Sept. 6. Part of it appeared to assign blame to her predecessor, Dennis Hession: “I believe the voters will see through his (Condon's) attempt to blame me for actions of a former city administration, the county prosecutor, and other attorneys working on this case in Federal Court. As I have said all along, I respect the judicial process and the facts that will come forth,” Verner said in the Sept. 6 news release.
Below is Mayor Mary Verner's full response to the statement released earlier in the day by her opponent in the November election, David Condon, followed by Condon's statement. Condon offered harsh criticism of Verner's handling of the Otto Zehm matter. Verner's response was delivered by her campaign, not by the city.
MARY VERNER'S FULL NEWS RELEASE:
Mayor Mary Verner says she is deeply disappointed in former Congressional aide Dave Condon’s reckless attempt to use the tragedy of the Otto Zehm death for his personal political ambition.
Condon wrote a campaign news release today, criticizing the mayor, city police, city attorneys, and city staffers.
Local politics for the double 0’s, or whatever we call the last decade, started with a promise of a new millenium and a broken campaign promise. It ended of lots of zeroes behind red-hued numbers — the difference between what our governments expect to take in, and what they are scheduled to pay out.
In between, governments were re-arranged, ballots were recounted, politicians were recalled or forced to resign.
Here Spin Control’s quick look at the late, and probably not so lamented, decade in local politics:
2000: George Nethercutt breaks term limits pledge, wins re-election anyway.
2001: Spokane gets a new political structure.
2002: Spokane Valley incorporates.
2003: Jim West wins mayor job, loses it two years later.
2004: Chris Gregoire edges Dino Rossi.
2005: City settles River Park Square lawsuits.
2006: Otto Zehm’s fatal encounter.
2007: Bad year for “family values” types.
2008: Walt Minnick wins Idaho congressional seat.
2009: The budget blues.
For details, go inside the blog.
What’s in a word? When the word is “lunge”, it could be quite a bit.
That’s lunge the verb, as in the Spokane Police Department’s repeated insistence that Otto Zehm “lunged” at Officer Karl Thompson the night of March 18, 2006, in an altercation that led to Zehm being struck with a police baton, jolted with a Taser, handcuffed, hog-tied, going unconscious, slipping into a coma, being declared brain dead, and eventually dying.
That word was used by Acting Spokane Police Chief Jim Nicks the night of the altercation, who had been called to the scene.“The suspect lunged at the officer during the initial contact and basically a fight occurred at that time,” he told the assembled news media.
All the bad things that happened, it seemed, sprang from that lunge.
But Nicks wasn’t there when the altercation started…
Otto Zehm is responsible for the events that led up to his death while in police custody, the City of Spokane said Friday as it asked a federal court Friday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Zehm’s mother.
A 56-page response to the civil rights claim by Ann Zehm offers previously unreleased – and, according to her lawyer irrelevant – information about a 1990 altercation between Otto Zehm and a county sheriff’s deputy. It also includes a description that Zehm was “on something” which was not in the transcript of the tape of the 911 call released by the city in 2006.
“Otto Zehm knew or should have know that he was being detained by a peace officer and had the duty to refrain from using force to resist such detention,” the city contends in its response, prepared by assistant city attorney Rocco Treppeidi and private attorney Carl Oreskovich, who is under contract with the city for assistance on the Zehm case and represents one of the officers named in the suit. “Any injury or damage suffered by Mr. Zehm was caused solely by reason of his conduct and willful resistance.”
Breean Beggs of the Center for Justice, who is representing Ann Zehm, said the court filing is typical of the city’s overall response on the Zehm case: “They’re doing the classic ‘blame the victim’ tactic.”