The city’s nominee for police chief is engaged to a woman he supervised in his previous job as public safety director in Indianapolis, a relationship that wouldn’t be allowed under Spokane city policies.
Frank Straub confirmed his engagement to Amber Myers, the chief of Animal Care and Control for Indianapolis and the person he elevated to that position last November after her predecessor left, the Indianapolis Star newspaper reported in an article published Tuesday. Myers had been the agency’s deputy chief, and before that she was an attorney with the city legal office.
Straub could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
But Spokane Mayor David Condon, who nominated Straub for the police chief’s job, said Tuesday evening he was aware of the relationship. Spokane city policies prohibit an employee from supervising another employee with whom he or she is in a relationship, but Straub had already submitted his resignation before the two started dating, Condon said.
“To me, it’s a personal matter,” the mayor said. Asked if he thought it would hurt Straub’s chances of being confirmed for the post, he replied: “I would hope not.”
News of their relationship caught other Spokane city and county officials by surprise, with several saying they would have preferred to learn it from Straub during the search process rather than through news accounts.
Their engagement was not general knowledge in Indianapolis until Myers arrived with Straub in Spokane last week for Condon’s formal announcement of his choice for police chief. News video showed Straub and Myers arriving at the airport together and they were described as being engaged, which apparently caught many people by surprise in Indianapolis when it was broadcast. The Indianapolis Star said it made several calls trying to verify the relationship, then was told Monday night that Myers had resigned her position effective Sept. 15.
Straub told the Star that their relationship didn’t start until after he had submitted his resignation in April, and that Indianapolis city policy did not prohibit romantic relationships between a department director and one of his chiefs. He added: “I’m not commenting on my personal life.”
Spokane’s nepotism policy would prohibit such a relationship, however: “Employees who marry, have a romantic relationship with each other or become members of the same household may continue in their present position so long as there is not a direct or indirect supervisor/subordinate relationship between such employees, or an actual conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
Straub was hired in Indianapolis in January 2010 after serving as public safety commissioner in White Plains, N.Y., since 2002. He previously served as deputy commissioner of training for the New York Police Department and was a special agent with the U.S. Department of Justice. Straub, who is divorced and has two adult children, said he and his fiancee plan to search for a home within the Spokane city limits.
Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart said he wasn’t aware that Straub was engaged to a former subordinate until contacted by a reporter. He described Straub as “really forthcoming” during their interview, but the subject of his fiancee’s job didn’t come up. Stuckart doesn’t think the relationship should disqualify Straub from the police chief job.
“I don’t think this would taint his chances of being confirmed,” the council president said.
Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin said she met Amber Myers during her visit with Straub but didn’t know he was her supervisor. She joked that maybe Myers could help Spokane solve its ongoing issues surrounding animal control.
Councilman Mike Allen said he became aware of their relationship when he saw a copy of the Indianapolis Star article that someone had printed out and left on their desk at a SCRAPS facility during a Tuesday tour. He said he would have preferred to have learned about Straub’s relationship with Myers during the search “and not after the fact.”
“I will withhold judgment until I know what the facts are,” Allen said. “But it seems to me if there was that type of relationship, it should have been disclosed because it opens up the governmental body (to liability) if there is a case of discrimination ever filed.”
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who sat on the law enforcement interview panel during the police chief selection process, said he was also unaware of the relationship until speaking with a reporter. His department has several husband-wife employees, but county rules forbid one spouse from supervising the other.
“They could not work on the same shift together. I definitely cannot appoint my wife to any position,” Knezovich said. “You can’t supervise someone you are in a relationship with. That’s just the way it is.”
The sheriff declined to comment on any concerns about Straub’s hiring: “It really comes down to the mayor and council … as to what they think is a concern or not.”
Spokane Police Guild President Ernie Wuthrich, who sat with Knezovich on the panel that suggested that Condon reopen the chief search, said the panel was not allowed to question the candidates about their personal lives “or relationships that aren’t work-related.”
Asked if the revelation changes his view of Straub as a police chief, Wuthrich said he considered all three finalists “decent folks” but none would be the correct choice for chief.
“I’m hoping the mayor has done his homework, and since he’s picked (Straub), that he’s the right guy.”