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Appellate court upholds dismissal of former Police Chief Frank Straub’s lawsuit against city

UPDATED: Fri., June 15, 2018

FILE - Former Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub talks during a press conference, August 26, 2013, at the Public Safety Building in Spokane, Wash. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE - Former Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub talks during a press conference, August 26, 2013, at the Public Safety Building in Spokane, Wash. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Federal appellate judges on Friday ruled against former Spokane police Chief Frank Straub in his wrongful termination lawsuit.

The three-member panel affirmed a 2016 ruling, finding that city administration hadn’t violated Straub’s due process rights when they forced him out of office, citing a loss of confidence from police brass. The appeal centered on whether the city made a legitimate offer of a hearing for Straub to defend himself against the accusations after the departure was announced in September 2015.

Straub’s attorney, Mary Schultz, argued last week in Seattle that the offers, contained in emails, weren’t made in earnest. But the judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled they had been offered, and the city wasn’t required to hold such a hearing before a news conference announcing his removal.

“Straub certainly had an interest in holding such a hearing prior to the press release and the loss of his position,” Judges Jay Bybee, N. Randy Smith and Paul C. Huck wrote in their opinion Friday. “However, Defendants were removing the head of their police department – an important, high-profile position – and had a stronger interest in quickly executing that decision and communicating its rationale to the public.”

The decision prompted ethics complaints against Mayor David Condon, but the Ethics Commission ruled this year he had been truthful when he said Straub’s removal didn’t have anything to do with a former department spokeswoman, who was later revealed to have brought a charge of sexual harassment to Condon.

Schultz said Friday the appeal will continue based on the question of whether the city’s offers of the hearing were legitimate.

“They affirmed the dismissal only because they believe the post termination emails were enough to cure the violation,” Schultz wrote. “We disagree that those emails were enough.”

Schultz plans to appeal to an 11-member panel of the circuit court.

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