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Spokane County settles over jail medication dispute

Thu., July 2, 2015

The failure to disclose a one-page memo governing how outside medicine may be received at Spokane County Jail has put taxpayers on the hook for nearly $28,000 in penalties.

Bigger questions about inmates’ rights to medical care have been posed in a federal lawsuit set for trial in Spokane later this year.

Rob Lee has settled a public records dispute with the county following the incarceration of his son Robert “Danny” Lee in May 2013, his attorney Rick Eichstaedt said Wednesday. Danny Lee takes three prescriptions for diagnosed mental health disorders and self-reported to the jail with a court order requiring they be administered.

The Lees said the jail did not accept those medicines, and Danny Lee was incarcerated for more than a week without medication. Rob Lee, who has power of attorney for his son’s medical decisions, filed a records request for the policy behind the decision, which was not fulfilled until he sued the county. The county released a March 2010 memo sent to jail staff saying that “under no circumstances” would medicine be administered that was brought in by attorneys, family or friends.

Rob Lee said Wednesday the money is no comfort, and he’s confused by the conflicting answers offered by Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and others about what medicine policy is in place at the jail.

“Them writing me a check for $30,000 didn’t do anything,” Lee said. “It doesn’t fix the problem.”

Lee pointed to a June 2013 video interview with Spokane County Sheriff Sgt. Rich Gere conducted after an internal investigation into the issue. Gere tells Lee and his wife in the video the jail should have accepted the medications when Danny Lee reported for his sentence on a misdemeanor charge.

“We have tried to correct the problem and the mistake that was made,” Gere can be heard saying in the video.

Knezovich said Wednesday that information was found to be incorrect when his staff later consulted with jail doctors. He blamed the failure to release the memo with the updated jail medication policy to the Lees on the switch in control of the jail. Spokane County took over operation of the jail from the Sheriff’s Office the same month the Lees met with Gere for the recorded interview.

“The shakeup is what caused it,” Knezovich said. “You had a dynamic change.”

Eichstaedt said the county quickly moved to settle the public records lawsuit when it was filed in May. An order closing the case was issued last month.

“Almost immediately they came to us and said, ‘OK, here’s the document, what can we do to settle the case?’ ” Eichstaedt said.

Meanwhile, a November trial date has been set in U.S. District Court for a civil rights claim alleging Danny Lee’s right to avoid cruel and unusual punishment was violated by Knezovich and the Spokane County Jail administration. Knezovich said Wednesday there was no evidence jail guards violated policies in their handling of the medication.

“Everyone tried their best to comply with the court order,” Knezovich said.

Rob Lee remains unconvinced.

“The sheriff is trying to marginalize me,” he said.



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