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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Stuckart subject of possible ethics investigation

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart is the subject of a possible ethics violation for leaking what city officials call a “highly confidential email regarding a pending matter of litigation.” The matter was referred to the city’s ethics commission yesterday by City Attorney Nancy Isserlis, and Stuckart has already retained an attorney to represent him. Isserlis, reached by phone this morning, quickly hung up the phone after saying she was in a meeting. In her letter to the ethics commission, Isserlis said the matter “came to my attention inadvertently” when she was performing an investigation about a budget transfer at the request of Don Waller, president of Local 29, the city’s fire union. During this investigation, she found an email Stuckart had forwarded to Waller written by Erin Jacobson, an attorney with the city. Jacobson’s original email dealt with pending litigation about a lawsuit against the city by Waller regarding the mayor’s decision to create departments with a fire division, which would have allowed the mayor to appoint people to positions instead of having them go through a civil service process leading to union-protected jobs. Jacobson’s email was sent to the mayor and council members and its subject line read “ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGED Appeal Decision.” “Within twenty minutes of receipt of Ms. Jacobson’s email, Council President Stuckart forwarded the email, in its entirety, to Mr. Waller at his personal email address,” Isserlis wrote in her referral. “I believe Mr. Stuckart was aware he was forwarding confidential information to the party opposing the City in pending litigation.” Stuckart said this morning he couldn’t give too many details because of attorney-client privileges, but said he knew he had acted inappropriately. “I shouldn’t have done that. But nothing was affected by that,” he said, nothing that Isserlis’ action “isn’t a complaint. It’s a referral.” His attorney, Brian McClatchey, said he didn’t believe Stuckart violated city law. “At this stage, it’s not even a formal complaint,” he said. “Having seen what happened, I can tell you that I think there wasn’t any violation. Even if there was, it was such a small effect the commission has the authority to dismiss it.” He said the email Stuckart forwarded contained no information that wasn’t already known. “All of this was publicly known,” he said. “Go back and look at the Spokesman or the Inlander articles. The mayor and his spokespeople were saying these things anyway.” Still, he said he and Stuckart took the matter seriously and hoped to deal with the “distraction” soon. “Our next step is talk to the commission on this informal referral,” he said. They hope to meet with ethics commission members next week, but said there was no official timeline for the matter.
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