May 18, 2012 in City
Spokane PD rehires detective with lawsuit pending
The Spokane Police Department has rehired embattled Detective Jeff Harvey even though his lawsuit against the city remains unresolved.
City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said Harvey’s first day back was Monday after he was fired for cause last July by then-Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.
“We have new leadership in the city and police department who may look at it differently than previous leadership,” Feist said. “We are also looking at what our legal exposure is.”
Bob Dunn, who is representing Harvey, said his client has been rehired at his previous rank of detective and at the same pay, $85,650 a year.
“They wanted to stop the back-wage bleeding,” Dunn said. “You might as well pay him for doing his job.”
At the same time, the city offered to settle the case for $35,000 to Harvey, and up to $15,000 for attorney’s fees. Dunn said Harvey will not accept the city’s offer.
“It was so demeaning and so insignificant that it doesn’t warrant a response,” Dunn said.
Last fall, Dunn won a $722,000 jury award and was given $833,000 in attorney’s fees in a similar case involving Officer Jay Mehring. Dunn filed the current lawsuit on Harvey’s behalf in February.
Last July, the city released Harvey’s 10-page termination letter, which was signed by Kirkpatrick and former City Administrator Ted Danek and hand-delivered to Harvey’s home. It documented other discipline and negative evaluations during Harvey’s years in the department.
He was suspended for 20 days in 1987 after breaking a man’s arm; given an oral reprimand in 1989 after eight detention employees reported that Harvey and two fellow officers used excessive force against a 17-year-old boy; and suspended for 40 hours in 1991 for calling in sick so he could go hunting.
In the lawsuit, Dunn accused the city of violating the confidentiality of Harvey’s employment records and retaliating against him because Harvey had served as a vice president of the Spokane Police Guild.
“In this role, (Harvey) was very vocal regarding the Guild’s disapproval of police leadership, particularly how Defendant Kirkpatrick abusively handled discipline and treated guild members,” Dunn wrote. Harvey’s “comments and opinions were commonly published in numerous local news broadcasts, as was his involvement in the 2010 vote of no confidence against Defendant Kirkpatrick, making him a target of Defendant Kirkpatrick for unlawful retaliation and employment discrimination.”
Earlier this week, the Spokane City Council voted unanimously to pay the cost to represent Kirkpatrick in Harvey’s lawsuit and a lawsuit filed on behalf of Brad Thoma, a sergeant who was fired in 2009. Dunn also is representing Thoma. Both cases are in federal court.
Thoma was driving with a blood-alcohol content above the legal limit in 2009 when he hit another pickup near the intersection of Farwell Road and U.S. Highway 2, then drove away. He claims that the city discriminated against him because he is an alcoholic.
Harvey was terminated after he was charged with obstruction of justice following a January 2011 encounter with a state Fish and Wildlife officer. However, a jury last September decided 5-1 to acquit Harvey, and Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Brian O’Brien said he would not retry the case.
Feist said the city has hired Seattle attorney Michael Patterson to represent it against Harvey’s suit. Interim police Chief Scott Stephens was in contract negotiations and unavailable for comment.
Reporter Jonathan Brunt contributed to this report.