Any city of Spokane employee intentionally withholding public records will be subject to punishment, including possible removal from office, as part of ethics code revisions that will be voted on by the City Council on Monday night.
Mayor David Condon put the measure before the council as part of a settlement with Brian Breen, the retired Spokane police detective who sued the city for failing to produce records in the ouster of former Police Chief Frank Straub.
The Spokesman-Review made the initial requests for those records, which weren’t produced until two months after Condon held a news conference announcing Straub’s departure. Nancy Isserlis, then the city attorney, declined to release handwritten notes prepared by City Administrator Theresa Sanders detailing sexual harassment claims against Straub.
The proposed ordinance changes also will allow private citizens to appeal a decision denying or delaying access to public records to the city’s hearing examiner. Requesters previously would have had to file claims under the state’s public records laws in court.
An independent investigation by attorney Kris Cappel found that members of Condon’s staff delayed the release of the Straub harassment records until after Condon’s re-election, a claim the mayor and his administration has denied. Straub also denied the sexual harassment allegations, suing the city for $4 million in a lawsuit that is now before federal appellate judges.
Breen also received a $50,000 cash settlement in the records case, money his attorney, Rick Eichstaedt, said will be used to aid police accountability efforts.
Condon also has promised to overhaul the city’s sexual harassment policies as part of a settlement with the Spokane chapter of the National Organization of Women, who had filed an ethics complaint alleging dishonesty in his answers to the media and City Council about the reason Straub was forced out of office.
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