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Friday, January 17, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane City Council president says he won’t approve more money for legal fees until investigator gets needed information

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart said Monday he will vote against funding legal fees related to the lawsuit brought against the city by former police Chief Frank Straub until the investigator looking into Straub’s ouster gets all the documents she has requested.

“I have concerns about our investigation and how it’s been handled,” Stuckart said Monday at an administrative meeting of the City Council. “I’m very concerned that the documents have not been released, unredacted, to our independent investigator.”

At issue is a request for $136,000 in additional funds for Michael McMahon, the city’s lawyer in the Straub case, a request that will be considered Monday by the council. Kris Cappel, the investigator who was jointly hired by the City Council and Mayor David Condon, has had 7,000 emails withheld from her as the city reviews the emails for confidential information.

Straub, who filed a $4 million claim with the city before suing, was pushed out of City Hall by Condon in September following accusations of inappropriate behavior from his top police brass and sexual harassment from his former spokeswoman, Monique Cotton. Straub has denied the allegations, but his ouster and the mayor’s role in the forced resignation have been under scrutiny ever since.

Also next week, the council will consider a resolution put forward by Councilman Breean Beggs authorizing and encouraging Condon to hire another attorney to be in charge of the investigation. Under Beggs’ plan, Mike Harrington would be hired as an attorney so any documents he or Cappel view would be shielded from public release through attorney-client privilege.

Stuckart, whose sentiments were echoed by Councilwoman Karen Stratton, said he would vote to spend more on legal fees when all documents are provided to Cappel.

“At a very minimum, the documents need to be released to the investigator, unredacted,” Stuckart said. “We don’t need to wait another two months for this investigation to conclude. I cannot vote to spend more money on legal fees to defend the city when the citizens and the council needs are not being met in the independent investigation. I cannot vote for it under those circumstances.”

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