Retired Spokane Police detective Brian Breen filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the City of Spokane for the delayed release of public records he requested last year relating to the ouster of police Chief Frank Straub.
The suit accuses former city attorney Nancy Isserlis of withholding documents that she knew were responsive to the public records requests and not turning them over to City Clerk Terri Pfister until after the November election. Breen filed his first public records request in the matter on Sept. 5, 2015. The Spokesman-Review submitted similar requests for emails and messages related to Straub and Monique Cotton, the former police spokeswoman who said Straub sexually harassed her, on Aug. 18, 20 and 21.
The documents were delayed for review by the city attorney’s office because of “pending litigation,” even though no lawsuits had been filed, Breen’s suit claims. “This directive was a deviation from the Clerk’s standard practices,” it says.
The allegations come from the report prepared by independent investigator Kris Cappel, said attorney Rick Eichstaedt at the Center for Justice, who filed the suit on behalf of Breen.
“She lays out with evidence that these records were mishandled and there was an intentional delay in the release of these,” Eichstaedt said Wednesday.
The suit requests the city be forced to pay a penalty of $100 per day per page of “unlawfully delayed documents.”
Breen said he wants to be able to depose the current and former city officials involved in the delayed release of the records. Some of them declined to be interviewed by Cappel.
“My intent is to get to the truth – always has been and always will be,” he said. “The only way to do that is litigate.”
Breen said his decision to sue is not politically motivated. “It has nothing to do with the recall,” he said, referring to a recall petition filed against Mayor David Condon earlier this month. “That’s not what it’s all about. It’s about getting to the truth.”
Eichstaedt said the Center for Justice routinely takes on cases involving government accountability and the Open Public Meetings Act.
“This is something we do and have done for a long time,” he said.
City spokesman Brian Coddington said Wednesday afternoon that he wasn’t aware of the lawsuit and the city typically does not comment on pending litigation.