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Thursday, April 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Downtown Spokane police captain suspended over used office furniture dispute

Spokane’s downtown police captain was placed on leave for nearly a month over a dispute about which used furniture should be placed in the new downtown precinct, an internal investigation released Monday confirmed.

The report found Capt. Brad Arleth was insubordinate to his supervisor, Assistant Chief Craig Meidl, when he moved furniture from the downtown police precinct’s old location near the Spokane Transit Authority Plaza to the new precinct at the Spokane Intermodal Center. That insubordination, however, didn’t amount to “what I would characterize as ‘mutiny,’ ” former interim Chief Rick Dobrow said in a letter of reprimand.

Arleth is appealing the finding through the Spokane Police Lieutenants and Captains Association’s grievance process, association President Lt. Dave McCabe said, and a grievance letter has been sent to city Human Resources Director Heather Lowe.

Arleth was placed on leave in early January after Dobrow said he had been accused of a “serious violation of policy,” but the department returned Arleth to work a month later while the investigation continued. Arleth was paid about $160,870 in 2014, making his monthly salary about $13,400.

Based on information from a source inside City Hall who knew about the investigation, The Spokesman-Review initially reported incorrectly that the complaint against Arleth was filed by a city administrator, rather than by Meidl. But emails included in the report show Meidl supported moving the furniture and changed course only after City Administrator Theresa Sanders and Asset Management Director Ed Lukas said it wouldn’t be possible.

On Dec. 17, Meidl emailed Arleth and construction manager Judy Knight, outlining a plan to move furniture from the Peyton Building to the Intermodal Center – the city’s downtown bus and train depot. This happened after officers working at the downtown precinct filed a complaint with the Spokane Police Guild about “inadequate and unsafe” working conditions at the new precinct in mid-December, before the move. They raised concerns about the functionality of city-installed furniture at the new office.

The downtown precinct, including its original furniture, was moved from the Peyton Building, next door to the STA Plaza, to the city-owned Intermodal Center in late December. The investigation file shows Arleth did not support the move and had concerns it would result in increased crime around the STA Plaza. The move also drew questions from City Council members about the costs of the new precinct.

Mayor David Condon and others in his administration have defended the precinct move, saying it will make it easier for police to respond to calls in the growing east side of downtown and will save money on security and vandalism repairs at the Intermodal Center.

According to the report, Lukas, the asset management director, had told Arleth the furniture was new and specifically designed for the Intermodal Center. Arleth took photos of the furniture showing it was used and had stickers on it dating from 2000. He said desks were not tall enough to accommodate his height, and the furniture appeared to have coffee stains and other signs of wear on it.

Internal Affairs Maj. Justin Lundgren, who wrote the report, noted that he searched for furniture contracts with the downtown precinct and wasn’t able to find any. He looked at the furniture originally supplied for the new precinct and said it was in “well-used” condition.

“There is no record that any new furniture was purchased and designed for the intermodal Precinct,” he wrote.

Knight, the construction manager, forwarded Meidl’s email to Lukas, who emailed Sanders saying the move “was a concern” because furniture had been purchased for the new space.

Sanders replied, “We’re not moving the furniture – they’ll use what was purchased for the intermodal IN the intermodal. What don’t they like about it? … This is just silly.”

Arleth emailed Meidl asking for clarification and received a voicemail from Meidl on Dec. 23, saying “As far as the move, the furniture, the packing, all that is carved in stone.” According to interview transcripts, Meidl saw that as a clear directive to use the existing furniture at the intermodal precinct. Arleth did not, saying Knight told him to mark whatever he needed to move from the old office. He enlisted his staff to help him move the furniture.

After the move, Knight and Lukas discovered furniture had been moved. Arleth said he was surprised to learn they were upset and said Knight was “wringing her hands over not wanting to get yelled at by” Sanders. He was placed on leave several days after Knight and Lukas visited the new precinct.

According to the Lieutenants and Captains Association contract, Lowe, the city’s human resources director, has 10 days to try to resolve Arleth’s grievance. If she does not, the grievance will be forwarded to Sanders.

McCabe said he has no concerns about Sanders’ ability to evaluate the grievance. He said he believes Sanders was given incorrect information by other staff at City Hall about the condition of the furniture installed at the Intermodal Center.

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