Attorneys for Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick have filed a counterclaim of malicious prosecution against a detective who is suing the chief and the city over how he was treated by the department during a messy divorce more than four years ago.
Detective Jay Mehring’s wrongful termination and defamation lawsuit goes to trial Monday after Superior Court Judge Kathleen O’Connor denied the defendants’ motion for a stay over the new complaint.
The allegation of malicious prosecution came earlier this month in response to Mehring asking the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office to investigate whether Kirkpatrick and city attorneys engaged in witness tampering in his $3.5 million lawsuit.
Mehring said the city refused to renew a contract with the department’s psychologist, Deanette Palmer, after she gave an opinion favorable to Mehring. Palmer had found that Mehring, who has been on paid leave since Sept. 9, 2010, was fit to return to duty.
The city has said it always intended to renew Palmer’s contract.
Kirkpatrick’s attorneys filed a counterclaim of malicious prosecution, saying the sole point of Mehring’s witness tampering claim was to put the chief at a disadvantage in the civil litigation and leak the matter to the media.
“Plaintiff knows full well that Chief Kirkpatrick did nothing to induce Dr. Palmer to not testify in this case,” according to the counterclaim.
Kirkpatrick declined on Thursday to comment on Mehring’s allegation or her counterclaim.
Mehring’s attorney, Bob Dunn, responded in court documents that “the criminal allegation must be resolved in Kirkpatrick’s favor before a claim of malicious prosecution can be brought.”
The claim and counterclaim come amid a legal case that began in 2007 when the police department charged Mehring with threatening the life of his now-former wife, Lisa Mehring, during their divorce. The detective was placed on unpaid leave.
In October 2008, after the detective was acquitted of the charges, Kirkpatrick reinstated Mehring with back pay. However, Mehring was demoted. Now he is suing over the city’s handling of his case.
In September 2010, the chief suspended Mehring after he wore his service pistol to a deposition also attended by Kirkpatrick.
This led to the psychological examination by Palmer, who found the detective fit for duty, the resulting accusation of witness tampering and the counterclaim of malicious prosecution.
Nevertheless, O’Connor ruled the civil trial would get under way as scheduled, with jury selection on Monday.