A senior Spokane city attorney was arrested after he punched a police officer in the jaw following an early morning car wreck last week, authorities say.
Milton G. Rowland, 43, faces a charge of third-degree assault on a law enforcement officer, according to court records.
Rowland, who was booked into the Spokane County Jail following the 2:15 a.m. incident on Friday, was released on his own recognizance later that day.
He also may be charged with several traffic offenses, including drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident, police said.
Rowland reported to work Monday but did not respond to messages left at his home and office seeking comment.
City Manager Bill Pupo said Rowland will stay on the job until a personnel review is conducted and the criminal charges are resolved.
Rowland, who was hired in January 1993, earns close to $60,000 a year. He also works as an adjunct instructor at the Gonzaga University Law School.
“We’re researching right now to see what our legal avenues are,” Pupo said. “It’s a tragic situation.”
Police said Rowland attacked an officer who was investigating a single-car crash in the exclusive Highland Park neighborhood off Hatch Road in south Spokane.
Police aren’t sure what Rowland was doing in that part of town. He told officers he lives in the 1100 block of West 13th.
A resident called authorities just after 2 a.m. when she saw a car being driven recklessly on Highland Park Drive, according to police reports.
The woman told officers the driver - whom she later identified as Rowland - was out of control, driving up on the curb and backing up at high speed.
At one point, the car lost its right front tire, but Rowland kept going with sparks flying from the bare rim, police said.
Rowland’s 1990 Oldsmobile Delta finally came to a stop on the front lawn of a house at Highland Park Drive and Brookshire Court. Police said the car was wedged between a tree and a juniper bush.
Rowland was not with his car when officers arrived. They apparently found him asleep in an acquaintance’s house nearby, said Dick Cottam, police spokesman.
When officers asked about the car, Rowland claimed not to know what they were talking about, Cottam said. He also refused to take a breath test to determine if he had been drinking.
An officer was attempting to put Rowland in the back of a squad car when the attorney pulled free and swung at him with his fist, police said.
The officer tried to duck but was hit in the jaw, Cottam said. Rowland then was handcuffed and taken to jail.
His boss, City Attorney James Sloane, said Monday that Rowland will undergo alcohol treatment as part of the city’s health care plan.
Sloane described Rowland as one of the city’s “three lead trial counsels” who has handled some of his office’s highest-profile cases. “And quite successfully, I might add,” Sloane said.
Rowland, however, lost a big case recently.
In April, a Superior Court jury decided Steve and Leslie Ronald deserve more than $2.1 million for a slice of riverfront land near the downtown Spokane library.
Rowland, the city’s lead attorney on the case, had argued the steep site is worth only between $47,000 and $282,000.
The Ronalds wanted to build a condominium complex on the 1.34-acre parcel, but City Council members voted to condemn the land to save the view of Spokane Falls from the library.
The City Council has voted to appeal the jury’s decision.
Rowland also is the city’s lead attorney in a $2 million lawsuit filed by Colbert residents who claim the smell of a city-owned compost plant there is causing them emotional stress.
Rowland’s arrest marks the second time this year that a high-ranking city employee has been caught up in an apparent alcohol-related incident.
In March, Assistant Police Chief Dave Peffer was arrested for drunken driving in the Spokane Valley. Peffer later was demoted to captain.
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