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Mayor orders investigation into Spokane city administrator over housing official’s allegations

UPDATED: Thu., June 17, 2021

Mayor Nadine Woodward speaks to the media near the south landing of the University District Gateway Bridge on April 8 about the city’s planned construction projects for the summer.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)
Mayor Nadine Woodward speaks to the media near the south landing of the University District Gateway Bridge on April 8 about the city’s planned construction projects for the summer. (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)

Mayor Nadine Woodward will order a third-party investigation into allegations of racial discrimination lodged against City Administrator Johnnie Perkins by outgoing housing official Cupid Alexander, she announced Thursday.

Woodward’s decision was announced a day after resigning top official Alexander voiced concern that he had been targeted and treated differently than other employees because he is Black.

Alexander, the city’s director of Neighborhoods, Housing and Human Services, is the only Black division leader in City Hall. He announced Monday that he would resign effective July 31; in a letter on Tuesday, Perkins instructed Alexander to clear out his desk by Friday and use paid time off through July 31.

The investigation will be conducted by a third party contracted by the city’s legal and human resources departments, according to a statement released by the city on Monday.

“The allegations raised in an email yesterday morning are very serious and carry implications for our organization and community,” Woodward said in a statement. “We are taking immediate steps to determine the facts and it will require the city to seek outside assistance to conduct that investigation. Employees and the public needs to know that if they raise concerns they will be taken seriously.”

The findings of the investigation will be provided to the city’s legal and human resources department, according to the city’s statement.

“The work product that results from the investigation will be made available in accordance with state public records laws,” city spokesman Brian Coddington said in an email.

When asked if the results would be released before or after it is reviewed or edited by the city’s legal and human resources departments, Coddington said “it will follow the standard third-party investigative engagement process used” by both departments.

Councilwoman Karen Stratton was highly critical of the administration’s handling of Alexander’s departure on Wednesday and immediately called for an independent investigation.

She was one of several members looking for answers in the wake of this week’s turmoil.

Councilwoman Lori Kinnear said she was deeply concerned by Alexander’s email, but was also hesitant to label Perkins as guilty of discrimination before he is allowed to defend himself.

“I was glad that (Woodward) chose that path, I think that’s the next logical step given what’s been said,” Kinnear said.

On Wednesday, Alexander sent the entire Spokane City Council and several city officials an email objecting to his treatment both before and after he announced his resignation.

Alexander is the third city employee working in the realm of housing and homelessness to resign this year. But, he said in his email, he is the only one of the three to be quickly shown the door after submitting his resignation.

“I’m unsure of why I’m being treated like this – I assume it’s race – but I request fairness is done,” Alexander wrote.

Alexander outlined several additional concerns, including that Perkins had attempted to intimidate him and requested they communicate in person to avoid having emails documented in the public record, Alexander said.

Further emails obtained by The Spokesman-Review revealed persistent strife between Alexander and Perkins over plans for the city’s homeless services.

Alexander was hired in November after working as an adviser in the Portland mayor’s office.

Perkins was brought on in April. Unlike other division heads, Perkins’ appointment is not subject to confirmation by the Spokane City Council.

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