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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sirens & Gavels

Ombudsman decision postponed after meeting notification error

Spokane's search for a new police ombudsman hit another snag last week after a glitch in the city's meeting notification system prevented the ombudsman commission from meeting.

The five-member citizen commission was scheduled to meet Sept. 9 to select a new police ombudsman from among three finalists. But the city failed to send out a special meeting notification 24 hours before the meeting, causing the process to be delayed further. The commission now plans to meet Sept. 30 at 7 p.m., with a location to be determined.

Robert Breeden, a career Florida cop who retired from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement last year, emerged as the front-runner for the job at a public forum Sept. 1, though many speakers encouraged the ombudsman commission to reject all three candidates.

Others, including NAACP President Naima Quarles-Burnley, said they'd be equally fine with Breeden or Raheel Humayun, an investigator with British Columbia's Office of the Ombudsperson.

Commissioners wouldn't comment on their likely selection for ombudsman, though ombudsman commissioner Scott Richter said the direction he was leaning "was reinforced" by comments at the forum.

Several community groups would like the commission to do more due diligence before hiring anyone.

Rick Eichstaedt, executive director of the Center for Justice, said he was impressed with Breeden but had lingering concerns about a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation which concluded he engaged in unprofessional conduct, including screaming at staff in front of other people.

Breeden has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the FDLE saying complaints about his conduct were part of a smear campaign by his former boss, Addy Villanueva, who he says retaliated against him after he blew the whistle on her frequent absences from work.

“We should be cautious about inheriting what could be a situation without making sure we’ve done everything we can as a community to make sure we trust the person we’re bringing,” Eichstaedt said. “If I was made aware of a situation like that amongst an attorney I was bringing in, I would want to know more.”

Liz Moore, executive director of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, agreed.

"I’m just not comfortable bringing someone in who has that over him. I also don’t feel entirely comfortable writing him off either," she said.

 



Rachel Alexander
Rachel Alexander came to the Spokesman-Review in 2014 after working for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. She covers social services, health and science for the City Desk and writes a monthly data-focused column, Know Spokane.

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