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Monday, October 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Witness lists provide look into Straub investigation

Two witness lists for the ongoing Spokane City Hall investigation into the firing of former police Chief Frank Straub have shed some light into the inquiry, but the inner workings remain largely concealed from public view.

The lists, which were part of a public records release sought by The Spokesman-Review, contain a total of 42 names of city employees. Straub and Monique Cotton, the police spokeswoman who made the accusation of sexual harassment against Straub that led to the continuing controversy, are absent from the list.

Straub has declined to participate in the investigation. Cotton’s attorney, Bob Dunn, has said he would counsel her against cooperating in the investigation, which he called a “whitewash.”

City Attorney Nancy Isserlis is named as a potential witness, but she so far has been silent on whether she will participate, despite Mayor David Condon saying it was “very important she cooperate.”

Kris Cappel, a former federal prosecutor who is leading the investigation, also proposed interviewing assistant city attorneys Erin Jacobson, who was told of Straub’s allegedly troubling behavior in 2014; Pat Dalton, who warned City Council members they could face criminal charges if they provided what council members say is key testimony to Cappel; and Mary Muramatsu, who serves as the police department’s adviser.

Emails to Jacobson, Dalton and Muramatsu asking if they’ll participate in the investigation were not returned.

One of the lists contains only police department personnel, and has 18 names for “proposed witness interviews” including Assistant Chief Craig Meidl, Capt. Brad Arleth, Capt. Dave Richards and many lieutenants including Dave McCabe, Dan Torok and Joe Walker. All of them served in leadership positions under Straub, and many of them stepped down and opted for demotions within months of being promoted by the former chief.

The list may not contain all potential witnesses sought by Cappel, as the document states that it is for the week of Feb. 22. The document notes that each interview should take an hour and a half, though it’s unclear who created and received the document.

The other document is marked confidential and was written by Cappel and Martha Norberg, the other principal in the group she and Cappel lead, the Seabold Group. This document has 35 names of city employees or officials from 11 different city departments or bodies, including the City Council, Park Board, legal department, human resources department, and community and neighborhood services department.

The date of the document, Feb. 24, was one day after an email from Lt. Steve Braun was sent to many proposed witnesses in the police department calling off the interviews.

Braun’s email contained a forwarded email from Cappel, which said the interviews were canceled “until further notice.”

“Until the issue of whether or not employees will be compelled to participate in the interviews with the Seabold Group they do not want to interview any employees,” Braun wrote. “I will contact each of you if/when these interviews will be compelled.”

Braun referred questions about the email to Teresa Fuller, a police spokeswoman, who declined to comment.

Condon said last week he has not yet made a decision whether to use his power as mayor to force employees to testify under threat of discipline, including termination of employment, which is known as the Garrity rule.

Council President Ben Stuckart has argued that Condon should use such power, and said he will use his own subpoena power if Condon resists calls to compel testimony.

According to the lists, other witnesses Cappel has requested to interview include Heather Lowe, the city’s human resources director; Meghann Steinolfsen, the human resources adviser to the police department; Jonathan Mallahan, director of community and neighborhood services; and Fire Chief Bobby Williams.

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