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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: Editorial: Investigation’s integrity on the line

Key figures in the Spokane City Hall controversy that led to the firing of Police Chief Frank Straub may not participate in the investigation, which raises a salient question:

If there isn’t full cooperation, how will the investigator produce a complete and credible report?

Reacting to the news that the city attorney’s office, key police officers and former police spokeswoman Monique Cotton have thus far declined to participate, investigator Kris Cappel broke her silence and issued a statement counseling patience.

She acknowledged specific instances where central figures declined to be interviewed or haven’t indicated their willingness to do so. She said she drew no “adverse inferences” from this lack of participation.

While we understand this position of neutrality before her work is complete, she should expect widespread skepticism if her final report doesn’t achieve greater cooperation.

In a Feb. 24 memo to all city employees, Mayor David Condon and Council President Ben Stuckart urged them to “cooperate fully.” They noted, “Your honest and candid perspective is important to the integrity of the investigation.”

In response to a question from the editorial board on Tuesday, Stuckart said, “I will not accept people integral to the truth not testifying. In my opinion, that would not be a complete investigation.”

Condon met with the editorial board on Tuesday, but declined to offer an opinion on the value of the investigation if key players remained on the sidelines. He also wouldn’t say whether he would push people to testify if the investigator requested their participation.

The questions swirling around the behavior of Straub, the transfer of Cotton to the Parks Department and the actions or inaction of Condon, City Administrator Theresa Sanders, Human Resources Director Heather Lowe and City Attorney Nancy Isserlis are central to the public’s understanding of what occurred.

But they aren’t the only matters Cappel is being asked to sort through.

A committee formed to determine the scope of the investigation also wanted to know whether the city needs to revise its policies and procedures for handling discrimination and harassment complaints. The investigator was also asked to look at policies for transferring employees and whether proper procedures were followed on public records requests.

It is, perhaps, on these issues related to the day-to-day workings of City Hall where the investigation will prove to have the most value. Given the unorthodox way events unfolded, a primer on the best practices in a variety of areas would appear to be needed.

But let’s be clear: The public’s greatest expectation from Cappel’s report is a full accounting of what people knew and when they knew it. And whether anyone should be held accountable.

A report that falls short would invite a torrent of adverse inferences.

To respond to this editorial online, go to www.spokesman.com and click on “Opinion.”

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