The attorney representing ousted Spokane police Chief Frank Straub, Mary Schultz, said Tuesday the relationship between former police spokeswoman Monique Cotton and police Lt. Mark Griffiths has been unexamined by the city despite Griffiths’ central role in Straub’s forced resignation.
She said it adds to the “illegitimacy” of the city’s case against Straub.
Griffiths was the subject of an alleged profanity-laced rant from Straub in March and one of the officers who signed the letter from the Lieutenants and Captains Association criticizing Straub’s leadership, which Mayor David Condon cited as one of the prime reasons for removing Straub as chief.
Considering Griffiths was romantically involved with Cotton, and since Griffiths was at the center of both situations, his role should have been scrutinized more closely, Schultz said.
“The relationship between she and Griffiths, that was a known situation on the city’s part,” said Schultz, who called the relationship “an open secret.”
“This is part of the illegitimacy of this. The city was aware of what relationships were occurring and what relationships weren’t,” she said.
In September, Condon said the decision to force Straub to resign as police chief came after leaders representing the union of higher-ranking police officers met with Condon and advised him that they would no longer tolerate “any further unprofessional behavior” by Straub, according to a letter from the union, the Lieutenants and Captains Association. The “confidential” letter, which was handed out to reporters during the news conference announcing Straub’s departure, cited personal attacks, emotional outbursts, scare tactics, threats, retaliation, inappropriate language and untruthfulness as examples of such behavior.
The letter was signed by Griffiths, Capt. Eric Olsen, Lt. Justin Lundgren and Capt. Dave Richards. Union president Lt. Dave McCabe was out of town when the letter was signed; he did not sign it.
Straub continues to deny any wrongdoing, said Schultz, who noted that the city “literally just tried to destroy him.”
Calls to Griffiths and Cotton were not returned.
In a text message Tuesday, Cotton only said, “This is exactly why those who have experienced harassment do not come forward.”
Bob Dunn, whom Cotton hired in April when she confronted Condon with allegations that Straub had sexually harassed her, said Cotton and Griffiths’ relationship had no bearing on accusations against Straub.
“That’s idiotic. That’s just about the most idiotic thing I have heard,” Dunn said. “Let’s go back to who this case is all about? This is about Straub. This is just a smokescreen by a lawyer who has no case with a client who has no case.”
Dunn said Straub’s “jealousy” over Cotton and Griffiths “dating … underscored the fact that he is dating Monique in his head.”
“What in the world is the guy thinking?” Dunn said.
After being moved out of the police department, Straub was sent to work under the city attorney on criminal justice issues, but city officials have so far denied requests to see reports or other work he’s completed since his ouster. Brian Coddington, the mayor’s spokesman, said Straub has not physically worked at Spokane City Hall since his removal.
Since Straub’s removal, public documents have shown that allegations against Straub go back to April, when Cotton told Condon and City Administrator Theresa Sanders that Straub had “grabbed her ass, tried to kiss her.”
In October, Straub filed a $4 million claim against the city for a violation of due process related to his removal.
Schultz said she is “communicating” with Michael McMahon, an attorney hired by the city to represent it in Straub’s claim.
Straub’s prime goal with his claim, said Schultz, was to enact change at the city, something he came to Spokane to do when Condon hired him as chief. Schultz said the city has run police chiefs out of town, and Straub was determined to stop such a “process.”
“This has been a very methodical, damaging process the city has engaged in with these police chiefs,” Schultz said, mentioning former chiefs Anne Kirkpatrick and Alan Chertok.
Schultz said she’s told McMahon that Straub would cooperate with the investigation that will be done by retired Judge Michael Hogan, whom Condon brought on as an “independent investigator” Monday.
“Frankly, we’re interested in this process with Hogan. This situation needs an inquiry,” Schultz said. “Judge Hogan has an excellent reputation. I let the city know … that we would be very interested in communicating with him.”
But Schultz was clear: If her client wants to move against the city, she’s prepared. The biggest monetary judgments Schultz has won for clients include a $36.4 million verdict in 2010 for victims of loan fraud related to the construction of a resort in North Idaho and a $14.9 million verdict in 2008 for a woman who suffered permanent damage from negligent oral surgery. In 2010, Schultz also won Washington’s then-largest employment discrimination jury award when she obtained a $5 million settlement against American Building Maintenance Co. for a woman who lost her job because of her gender.
“I can say for Frank, certainly this is something that would not be a first choice,” Schultz said. “The way that this has happened has been extraordinarily damaging.”