Wednesday, June 17, 2015

UPDATED Report: Rachel Dolezal and other ombudsman commissioners "abused their authority"

Posted By and on Wed, Jun 17, 2015 at 1:45 PM

As the legacy and lies of Rachel Dolezal have been debated nationwide, there’s been one defense of Dolezal that has cropped up again and again: Sure, Dolezal may have been dishonest about her race — but she’s done good work in her professional roles.

Posed that argument outside of Council Chambers after a press conference, Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart fired back with two words: “Obviously not.”
click to enlarge UPDATED Report: Rachel Dolezal and other ombudsman commissioners "abused their authority"
Jake Thomas
Mayor David Condon (left) and Council President Ben Stuckart (right) respond to the report.

Stuckart and Mayor Condon had just finished a press conference on an investigation into the Office of Police Ombudsman Commission, which Dolezal chairs. The news was grim. Dolezal and two other members of Spokane's Office of Police Ombudsman Commission, created “an intimidating, hostile and offensive environment” and “abused their authority,” according to a report released by the city of Spokane today.

“It’s horrible,” Stuckart said. “It makes me want to cry.”

Stuckart says he’s contacted all three accused commissioners. The other requested time to defend themselves. Only one — Dolezal — has refused to get back to him.

“It’s definitely a narrative. Dink! Dink! Dink! You’ve done wrong things here and wrong things here…” Stuckart says. "If somebody is behaving unacceptably and they do it multiple areas, it’s just — there’s a lot of people in Spokane hurt right now.” 

On April 16, an unnamed individual filed a whistleblower complaint against ombudsman commission chair Rachel Dolezal and commissioners Kevin Berkompas and Adrian Dominguez, prompting the city to hire the law firm Winston & Cashatt to investigate the allegations.

The police ombudsman position has been vacant since Tim Burns resigned in January. Since then it has been staffed by an assistant, Rebekah Hollwedel, who left the position in May, after the complaint was filed.

“The evidence and interviews confirmed [named redacted] workplace harassment allegations, revealing a pattern of misconduct as well as specific incidents of harassment that might be viewed only as rude or unprofessional were it not for the ongoing pattern of harassment,” reads the report.

Specifically it found:

• The members of the commission named in the report “abused their authority” by exceeding the scope of the ordinance and charter provisions governing the Office of the Police Ombudsman.

• Dolezal and Berkompas instituted a policy of altering commission meeting minutes before they were presented for approval at the next monthly meeting. They also avoided requirements of the Open Public Meeting Act, misrepresenting statements and conduct of staff and cut out other commissioners from the decision making process.

• The commissioners named in the report engaged in behavior that belittled and discounted the complainant and her abilities. During televised hearings they frequently misrepresented and criticized her activities and job performance, and later retaliated when she complained.

• Dolezal engaged in conduct that humiliated, insulted or degraded the complainant by instituting she was not accepting complaints from the public, was engaged in unnecessary training and chastising her for creating a draft informational flyer on the ombudsman’s office.

• Dolezal exhibited a bias against law enforcement, and her role as chapter of the NAACP president created a conflict of interest. Dolezal breached her duty to keep information confidential.

• Adrian Dominguez lied to investigators about a proposal to perform an evaluation of the complainant.

“I’m not going to sit and accept some blame for this report, or what [Dolezal’s] done to shift attention from the real leaders in our community. You know, people like Toni Lodge with the Native Project, Freda Gandy, at the Martin Luther King Center. They’re doing amazing work in our community,” Stuckart said. Yet we’re spending five or six days talking about this woman who didn’t even have the guts to apologize to her own community, and flies to New York to be on national television.”

Stay tuned for updates.

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Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters was a staff reporter for the Inlander from 2009 to 2023. He reported on a wide swath of topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.His work investigated deep flaws in the Washington...