Assistant police Chief Scott Stephens’ 27-year career with the city is over.
The Spokane City Council agreed to pay its former interim police chief $190,000 to depart in exchange for Stephens’ abandonment of any legal claims.
Council members expressed admiration for Stephens while acknowledging they were ready to move on after five months of acrimony between Stephens and city leaders.
“Sometimes relations even as adults get kind of messy,” Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin said. “I’m not judging who’s the victim and who’s the villain. We just have to settle this.”
The deal was announced in late April, more than five months after new Chief Frank Straub put Stephens on paid leave. Stephens reportedly made threats after he was told he would be demoted.
Stephens denied the accusations, and his attorney, Bob Dunn, accused the city of using a false allegation to ruin Stephens’ reputation in an attempt to force him out of the department. Stephens filed a claim against the city for $750,000.
Council members said the deal allows the city to focus on its future.
“Any time you have a change of leadership and you’re looking to change the direction in which the organization is moving, sometimes it creates bumpy roads and a lot of conflict,” Councilman Mike Allen said. “This settlement is equitable, allows us to move forward and move our community forward in the direction we’re looking to go with police reform.”
Stephens, a former interim chief and 27-year veteran of the force, was placed on paid leave Dec. 20, the day after being advised that he would be demoted by Straub. On Dec. 19 he told a friend in the department that “he did not think anyone would blame him if he took action” in response to the demotion, according to a two-page report prepared by a retired federal judge hired by the city to investigate the case.
Dunn has said Stephens was falsely accused of threatening workplace violence.
Stephens, 51, served as the interim police chief for nine months until he was replaced by Straub on Oct. 1.
Council members said the city likely would have had to pay a lot more if it fought Stephens’ claim.
“I wish we didn’t have to be at a point where we’re at a settlement and having to end it in this fashion,” Councilman Jon Snyder said. “For me the choice is clear: Approving the settlement will give us the best path forward.”
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