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Spokane police leaders union cites mayor for ‘failure’ dealing with chief

July 30, 2016 Updated Sat., July 30, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.

Members of the union representing several of the Spokane police supervisors who raised concerns about former police Chief Frank Straub’s abusive behavior say Mayor David Condon “failed” them and has not shown enough public commitment to turning things around.

“Our membership is concerned that Mayor Condon has failed to grasp the extent of his failure,” read a statement from the Spokane Police Lieutenants and Captains Association, sent Friday night to Condon, City Administrator Theresa Sanders and members of the Spokane City Council.

In response, Condon said in a statement Saturday that he took quick action once members of the association voiced their concerns to him in letters drafted in September. Those letters, voicing a loss of confidence in Straub, were distributed at a news conference announcing Straub’s departure as chief of police.

“I am disappointed that the Lieutenants and Captains Association executive board did not support its members sooner by coming forward to voice their concerns more quickly during our quarterly meetings or privately,” Condon said in a statement Saturday. “Moving forward, our goal has to be to create a workplace environment where employees feel safe and supported in raising their concerns.”

The association’s statement is the sternest rebuke yet of Condon’s public comments following the release of an independent report that showed for years top officers under Straub made multiple complaints about his abusive leadership style to city attorneys and other staff. Those complaints, including forced retirements, favoritism toward certain employees and emotional outbursts that caused voluntary demotions by Straub’s executive command staff, were not fully investigated and dismissed as as a natural consequence of new leadership and introducing change to the department, according to the report.

Lt. Dave McCabe, president of the association, said in an email the statement was “not intended as a press release” but rather “it was intended to express our opinions to city administration.” The statement targets both Condon and Sanders for failing “to assure that Straub’s conduct conformed to the City Harassment Policy.”

McCabe said the association was not calling for anyone’s resignation as a result of the report.

“Someone’s job status is not for us to determine,” McCabe wrote. “We just want to be assured that what occurred in the past is acknowledged and that steps will be taken to ensure that it won’t happen again in the future.”

On Saturday, Condon defended members of his staff for their work to determine if complaints against Straub were indicative of a larger problem or consequences of efforts to reform the Spokane Police Department.

“Ultimately, once the association members collectively raised their concerns to me, the matter was quickly resolved nearly a year ago,” Condon said in the statement.

City Council members quickly seized on the statement as evidence the Condon administration has not fully fessed up to its role in allowing Straub’s management to continue, despite evidence from Carly Cortright, Lt. Joe Walker and others his leadership was vindictive and abusive.

“One of my biggest concerns is how our staff was treated,” City Councilwoman Candace Mumm said. “I am not pleased.”

“I’m still not satisfied with what I heard come out of the mayor in terms of apologies, in terms of taking responsibility” said City Councilwoman Amber Waldref.

The statement from the police association references a memo Condon sent to employees Thursday, which members said contained no acknowledgment that he “and his staff failed to act for 2 years when concerns were repeatedly being brought forward, and now his apology is simply to blame his lack of action on one of the city employees he should have been protecting.”

Condon, in an interview after the release of the report, said he would be pushing for additional policies, including an anonymous tip line, to handle sexual harassment complaints at the city. In a letter released to The Spokesman-Review on Friday addressed to the city’s citizens, the mayor apologized for the “turmoil” caused by the release of the report and said the city’s “execution fell short.”

“You and Spokane deserve better from your leaders – all of your leaders in all branches of city government,” the letter reads.

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