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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Key figure in police chief harassment controversy quits job

Erin Jacobson, an assistant city attorney and a central figure in the continuing City Hall controversy regarding the ousting of Spokane police Chief Frank Straub, is quitting her job.

Her resignation could complicate an investigation into issues surrounding Straub’s firing and allegations he sexually harassed police spokeswoman Monique Cotton.

Jacobson has declined to cooperate in the investigation. She was once the acting human resources director and reportedly had been told by two high-ranking police officials of Straub’s troubling behavior.

Mayor David Condon has the ability to compel city employees to participate in the investigation led by Kris Cappel, a former federal prosecutor and principal in the Seabold Group investigation firm. He has so far resisted calls to invoke that power, called the Garrity rule. Once Jacobson leaves she cannot be compelled to speak with Cappel.

Jacobson, however, said in her letter of resignation – submitted April 8 to City Attorney Nancy Isserlis – that she is willing to be interviewed by Cappel for any future litigation, as long as city officials “modify the process to ensure that I would not be violating the attorney-client privilege by doing so.”

Her letter also stated: “In fact, I would welcome it, as I believe the facts will show that the City and its representatives acted appropriately and in the best interests of its citizens and employees. Meanwhile, however, I refuse to breach my ethical obligations to my clients because of political pressure.”

Police Lt. Joe Walker and Capt. Dan Torok spoke to Jacobson about Straub 16 months before Cotton took her concerns of sexual harassment to the mayor.

Walker had told Jacobson of a text message Straub had sent Cotton. It read: “See you soon. Love you. You are an awesome partner and best friend. You always will be!”

Cotton later called the text “odd and uncomfortable.” Neither the text nor complaints about Straub’s behavior were investigated by the city.

According to previous reports, Jacobson was told in early 2014 of a meeting between Walker, former interim police Chief Rick Dobrow and Straub, in which Straub “belittled and berated” Walker, calling him a “quitter” for leaving Straub’s inner circle.

Within a week of that meeting, Walker, Torok and Dobrow met with Jacobson and Heather Lowe, the city’s human resources director, and gave them “very clear details of (Straub’s) behavior and comments that he made during our meeting with him. They said it would be addressed.”

“I told her I have taken two demotions to get away from and avoid him because of his bullying and harassment,” Walker wrote in notes that were turned over as part of a public records request. “I finally asked her if there was anything she could do to make sure others at City Hall were aware of his behavior. She said they were aware and had heard things.”

Jacobson said in her resignation letter that her last day will be May 7.