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City to investigate circumstances of Scott Stephens’ administrative leave

Mon., March 4, 2013, 4:55 p.m.

The city of Spokane has hired a retired federal judge to investigate why Spokane’s former interim police chief was placed on paid administrative leave.

Scott Stephens was put on paid leave Dec. 20, but the circumstances for that action have never been publicly explained by the city or by current Chief Frank Straub.

The city has hired retired Judge Michael Hogan, who will begin his investigation Wednesday, according to a news release. Hogan’s investigation should be finished by the end of the month, the release said.

“We have established a process through which information can be gathered and evaluated objectively to produce the best result for everyone involved,” Spokane Mayor David Condon said in a prepared statement.

While calling Hogan’s actions an investigation, however, the release also said Stephens’ leave is “a sensitive personnel matter during a time of transition that required some diligence to explore a mutually acceptable resolution.”

Stephens served as interim police chief after the departure of former Chief Anne Kirkpatrick. He became assistant chief when Straub arrived. But the day after he was put on leave, Straub announced a reorganization of the department in which former Maj. Craig Meidl was named assistant chief and Stephens was demoted to a captain, which is below the rank of assistant chief and the new rank of commander.

In the release Monday, Stephens was referred to as a lieutenant, which is below the rank of captain.

Condon said he expected the public to be given an explanation for why Stephens was placed on leave within “days or weeks, not months,” but wouldn’t comment further.

City Council members said they have been told what led to the action but that they couldn’t comment.

Hogan is the same retired federal judge who mediated a settlement between the city and the family of Otto Zehm in May. Zehm died in 2006 after a violent struggle with Spokane Police.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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