Thursday, May 12, 2016

Let's tally all the lawyers involved in the Straub mess! (24 and counting...)

Posted By and on Thu, May 12, 2016 at 11:54 AM

Five months after independent investigator Kris Cappel was hired, she still hasn't received all the documents she requested from the city of Spokane. 

Now, City Councilman Breean Beggs thinks it might be about time to add another attorney to the mix. 

Cappel has been investigating the issues surrounding former police Chief Frank Straub — who was fired six months after former police spokeswoman Monique Cotton reported sexual harassment to Mayor David Condon — but has been running into the same sort of difficulties journalists following the case have: Getting public records in a timely manner, without so much redaction that they become essentially useless. 

A briefing paper from Beggs recommends that the city council ask the mayor to hire Michael Harrington, who would then retain Cappel. The thinking is she would be able to read city documents without risking waiving attorney-client privilege at a time when the city's embroiled in a lawsuit from Straub. 

Sounds complicated? It is. 

You have the city's ethics commission looking into whether the mayor lied, while at the same time Straub is suing the city, while at the same time an independent investigator is trying to figure out exactly what happened. 

The cases associated with the Straub scandal, and the mayor's handling of the scandal, have essentially become Captain America: Civil War for Spokane attorneys, packed to the gills with big names and big price-tags. There are so many lawyers. Even the lawyers have lawyers. 

We won't know how much it will costs the taxpayers like you until it's all over. But we can get a sense for just how many lawyers are buzzing around this thing — filing motions, sitting on committees and finding themselves the target of scrutiny. 

We've come up with 23 so far, not including Harrington. (UPDATE: Make that 24.)

How many can you find? 

The independent investigator

1. Kris Cappel
Let's tally all the lawyers involved in the Straub mess! (24 and counting...)
Five months in, and Kris Cappel still hasn't been able to get access to unredacted documents in the Straub investigation
Role: Lead investigator for the inquiry into the city's handling of Straub's ouster and the release of public records. 

Reputation: Cappel is a former federal attorney from New York who's prosecuted crimes such as fraud, murder, racketeering, kidnapping, extortion and public corruption. 

In a previous investigation into an alleged rape on a high school football trip, Cappel found there were no systemic problems in the Wenatchee school district, though supervision on the bus was "lax and ineffective at controlling students' conduct." 

Quote: "City staff have been working diligently to respond to our requests for documents, but they are following the public records disclosure process, which has presented challenges that we are addressing with the Joint Committee. We hope to resolve those challenges as soon as possible." 
— Cappel, in an April 4 letter responding to media reports scrutinizing the integrity of her investigation.

The former police chief's attorney
2. Mary Schultz 
click to enlarge Let's tally all the lawyers involved in the Straub mess! (24 and counting...)
Mary Schultz advised her client, Frank Straub, not to participate in the city's investigation
Role: Frank Straub's attorney, filed the $4 million lawsuit

Reputation: Schultz sued the plaid golf pants off the boys running the Spokane Country Club and forced them into bankruptcy. Before that, she won one of the largest employment discrimination verdicts in the state of Washington, and is also currently representing a former deputy U.S. attorney in an employment discrimination claim against U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. 

Quote: "Any other potential police chief coming into this community is going to look at the way we've treated them. That's going to be a serious problem for the city." 

The former police spokeswoman's attorney

3. Bob Dunn
click to enlarge Let's tally all the lawyers involved in the Straub mess! (24 and counting...)
Monique Cotton's attorney, Bob Dunn hasn't filed a lawsuit yet, but he's continued to dangle the possibility.
Role: His client, former police spokeswoman Monique Cotton, hasn't sued the city (yet). But he's been part of the story for more than a year. Last April, Condon met privately with Cotton in Dunn's office, where she laid out serious allegations of sexual harassment against Straub. 

Reputation: He has sued the city again and again. Represented Forrest Rodgers the (first) time he was fired as the Museum of Arts and Culture executive director. Most famously, Dunn argued that the city had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act for firing a cop who'd been charged with a DUI. That case settled and resulted in the officer going back to work and being awarded $275,000 in back pay. 

Quote: "This investigation process is like a clusterf—-." 

The former parks department spokeswoman's attorney 

4. Kevin Roberts

Role: Represents Nancy Goodspeed, who was on medical leave when she was effectively replaced by Cotton, who’d been shifted to parks as part of Condon’s deal to get Cotton out of the police department. She filed a $1 million claim with the city. 

Reputation: Once represented contract-liquor stores pushed out when a voter initiative legalized liquor sales in Washington state. Used to work at Bob Dunn’s law firm.

Quote: "The City kicked Ms. Goodspeed when she was down because it thought she was weak and unable to protect herself."

The city attorneys 

5. City Attorney Nancy Isserlis
click to enlarge Let's tally all the lawyers involved in the Straub mess! (24 and counting...)
Jeff Ferguson
City Attorney Nancy Isserlis has two other attorneys representing her in former police chief Frank Straub's lawsuit.
Role: She’s a named defendant in Straub’s lawsuit against the city, and whether she will agree to an interview with Cappel is unknown at this time.

Reputation: Condon picked the media-shy veteran attorney to replace former City Attorney Howard Delaney, who ran the show during the Otto Zehm cover-up. Isserlis used to work for the local firm Winston & Cashatt and chaired the oft-criticized police ombudsman search committee as well as the city’s ethics commission. It was Isserlis who initiated the investigation into the whistleblower complaint against former police ombudsman commissioners and hired her old law firm to conduct it.

Quote: In 2012, just before she assumed the city attorney’s role she told the
Inlander: “I think police accountability and the ombudsman issues, at least for the time being, [are] going to be front and center. I think I can do my part in helping this community heal.” Adding: “I can’t make it heal.”

6. Asst. City Attorney Pat Dalton

Role: As the attorney who often determines which public records are exempt from disclosure, Dalton is sure to be heavily scrutinized in the Straub investigation. He also made waves when he sent an email to the city council warning against speaking about information discussed in the executive session the day before Straub was fired.

Reputation: Has been workin’ for the city for 30 + years.

Quote: "We also generally point out to City employees and officers the provisions of the City Ethics Code, which makes it a violation to disclose confidential information.”
— Pat Dalton in a letter to Spokane City Council members warning them of possible legal violations if they spoke about what happened.

7. Former Asst. City Attorney Erin Jacobson

Role: As the city’s attorney who handled labor issues, Jacobson has been very involved in the Straub mess from the beginning, with records suggesting she was repeatedly warned about Straub’s behavior. She was also involved as police leadership tried to determine whether the investigation was considered mandatory.

While Jacobson has resigned from the city, City Administrator Theresa Sanders has asked the ethics commission if it’s okay if she is hired on as a consultant.

Reputation: The former assistant city attorney recently resigned after refusing to participate in an interview with Cappel. Jacobson worked in the City Attorney’s Office for seven years and is currently a member of the Human Resource Concentration Advisory Board at Gonzaga.

Quote: “I refuse to breach my ethical obligations to my clients because of political pressure.”
— Jacobson, on why she would only participate in the investigation if her concerns about attorney-client privilege could be dealt with.

8. Mary Muramatsu

Role: Muramatsu is the legal advisor to the Spokane Police Department.

Reputation: Former Spokane city prosecutor who in 2012 implemented the practice of ticketing drivers for driving on a suspended license rather than arresting them to reduce public defender caseloads. Also in 2013 in her current role of assistant city attorney, she recommended expanding the hours and public areas downtown in which sitting and lying on sidewalks would be prohibited.

9. Sam Faggiano

Role: Assistant city attorney serving as the liaison between Dennis Hession’s law firm (Kutak Rock) and the City of Spokane.

The city attorney's attorneys

10. Tyler J. Storti

Role: Representing Isserlis in the Straub lawsuit.

Reputation: Practices in a variety of legal arenas, including construction, business disputes and real estate transactions. He practices in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. 

Quote: “Plaintiff’s multi-part omnibus Response to the separate motions of the uniquely situated Defendants muddles together generalized allegations of wrongdoing, but is completely devoid of any specific allegation as to anything Ms. Isserlis did or did not do that could even potentially (let alone plausibly) be actionable against her.”
— Storti, in his April 29 motion to dismiss 

11. John Spencer Stewart

Role: Storti’s co-counsel, representing Isserlis in the Straub Lawsuit.

The mayor's attorney 

12. James B. King

Role: Defending Mayor David Condon against both Straub’s lawsuit and the National Organization for Women’s ethics complaint.

Reputation: King is no stranger to defending politicians under fire. He represented former deputy mayor Jack Lynch after the Spokesman-Review reported Lynch was engaging in public sex at High Bridge park. Later investigations appeared to clear Lynch.

Quote: “We do not accept NOW’s definition of dishonesty.”
— King, to the City of Spokane's Ethics Commission.

The city administrator's attorney
13. Keller W. Allen

Role: Defending Theresa Sanders in Straub’s lawsuit, and sitting in with Sanders during any interviews by Cappel.

Reputation: Once represented a woman suing Spokane Valley’s Huntwood Industries for how it handled sexual harassment allegations.

Quote: “Straub has not come up with a whiff of legal authority that establishes ‘beyond debate’ that he had a clear constitutional right to a pre-publication name-clearing hearing. Straub’s blind insistence that he was entitled to such a hearing is meritless.”

The city council president's attorney
14. Jesse Wing

Role: Hired by City Council President Ben Stuckart after the city warning sharing information provided in waived executive session could result in criminal charges. Stuckart says he’s spent over $4,000 so far.

Reputation: Once represented prisoner advocacy magazine, Prison Legal News, in a lawsuit suing Spokane County for a policy that barred Spokane County inmates from reading the magazines and only allowed them to receive postcards in the mail.

The city's outside counsel

15. Michael J. McMahon
click to enlarge Let's tally all the lawyers involved in the Straub mess! (24 and counting...)
Michael McMahon, outside counsel for the City of Spokane

Role: Since the City of Spokane’s legal decisions have come under fire in the Straub lawsuit and scrutiny of the Cappel investigation, the city needed to find legal counsel without a conflict of interest to represent Spokane in Straub’s lawsuit.

Reputation: Represented KHQ when they were sued by former anchor Randy Shaw, who was terminated amid claims of sexual harassment. Shaw was cleared of the allegations, and reached a settlement with the TV news station.

Quote: “Affording Straub a pre-publication hearing would undermine the City’s interests in managing at-will employees and explaining its employment decisions.”
— McMahon, in an April 29 filing against Straub.

16. Andrew M. Wagley

Role: McMahon’s co-counsel
17. Dennis Hession

Role: Officially, supervising McMahon’s firm and its representation of the city against Straub’s lawsuit. Essentially, he’s doing the job that the City Attorney’s Office would do, but can’t in this case because it's a named defendant (because that’s not confusing at all). 

Reputation: Former City Council member, City Council President and Mayor of the City of Spokane. Was defeated by Mary Verner in 2007, possibly because of a controversy over garbage trucks.

Quote: “The City informed Mr. Walters of this mistake via email on April 15, 2016 and respectfully requested that he immediately delete/destroy the inadvertently disclosed email and any duplicated he may have made, and to not further disseminate that email.”
 — Hession, in a letter stipulating to the Inlander the city had inadvertently disclosed an email that was protected by attorney-client privilege. 

The joint committee overseeing the investigation

The four-person volunteer commission picked by the city council has not only assisted with picking Cappel as the independent investigator, but also with defining the investigator’s scope and determining whether it would be mandatory for city employees to speak to the investigator.

18. Breean Beggs

Role: As a city councilman on the joint committee, Beggs has been searching for solutions that allow the investigator to get a full understanding of what occurred, while also easing the city’s concerns about much liability. 
click to enlarge Let's tally all the lawyers involved in the Straub mess! (24 and counting...)
Breean Beggs, member of the joint committee overseeing the investigation

Reputation: Possibly most well-known for his role representing the family of Otto Zehm, the mentally ill janitor who died after being beaten by a Spokane police officer. Beggs, who has also served as the attorney for the civilian ombudsman commission, lost the race for county prosecutor in 2014.

Quote: “Unfortunately, this option would seriously undercut the perceived value of the report and substantially increase the cost by using other attorneys to review and withhold documents before Kris Cappel sees them.”
— Beggs, weighing the merits of paying Hession's law firm to redact all exempt documents before Cappel reads them.

19. Brian McClatchey

Role: One of the city council’s picks for the joint committee. He also serves as the policy advisor providing legal advice to the city council.

Reputation: Former in-house attorney for the Coeur d’Alene Casino. Ally of City Council President Ben Stuckart who once called the ethics hearing concerning Stuckart forwarding a confidential email “a distraction.”

20. Laura McAloon

Role: One of the mayor’s picks for the joint committee.

Reputation: Spokane attorney who deals largely with public finance and municipal law.

Quote: "The joint team, we agreed that we wouldn’t talk about anything about the investigation, except as a team and doing a joint release. I really can’t talk to you about it.”

The ethics commissioners 

The seven-person City of Spokane Ethics Commission has already ruled on statements made by Theresa Sanders and City Spokesman Brian Coddington; however, the case against Condon is still ongoing.

21. Levi Liljenquist

Reputation: Spokane attorney since 2006, often representing businesses on tax-related issues.

Role: Ethics commissioner assessing the complaints again Condon.

22. Dennis Cronin

Role: Ethics commissioner assessing the complaints again Condon.

Reputation: Practices administrative and family law, as well as criminal defense. Was mentored and hired by the famous Spokane civil rights icon L. Carl Maxey.

Quote: "I don't know how we can determine these questions if we don't have definitions of what 'dishonesty' is, or what 'moral turpitude' is."
— Cronin, raising concerns about how the words contained in the city's ethics code applied to the complaint against David Condon.

The attorney representing the National Organization for Women’s ethics complaint

23. Rick Eichstaedt

Role: Eichstaedt filed the National Organization for Women’s ethics complaint, accusing 
click to enlarge Let's tally all the lawyers involved in the Straub mess! (24 and counting...)
Young Kwak photo
The Center for Justice's Rick Eichstaedt is representing the NOW
Condon of dishonesty during the Sept. 22 press conference announcing Straub’s firing.

Reputation: The former Riverkeeper and the Center for Justice’s executive director has been involved in cases concerning everything from land use to public records law. 

Quote: “The question is not whether an 'official complaint' was filed, but rather the Mayor's answers to whether there were complaints and whether there was an inappropriate relationship.”
— Eichstaedt, arguing Condon was dishonest in responding to reporters questions.

The Ethics Commission's outside counsel 

24: Milton Rowland 
click to enlarge Let's tally all the lawyers involved in the Straub mess! (24 and counting...)
Milton Rowland, a former city attorney himself, has been brought in to help advise the Ethics Commission

Role: Thanks to Rick Eichstaedt for tipping us off to this one. Concerned about a conflict of interest with relying on city legal counsel, the ethics commission brought in outside legal counsel to advise the body in handling NOW’s complaint about Mayor Condon.

A March 9 contract with Milt Rowland authorizes Rowland to be paid up to $10,000.

Reputation: Rowland was himself a former city attorney for Spokane from 1993 to 2007. He helped the city sue Spokane County during Spokane’s attempt to create a municipal court. He also helped Spokane defend itself when a motorcyclist sued the city for its dangerous Freya and Wellesley Avenue intersection.

(In a weird turn of events, in 1997, Rowland pleaded guilty to punching a police officer in the jaw during an early morning arrest. The Spokesman-Review sued to get his mugshot.)

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Mitch Ryals

Mitch covers cops, crime and courts for the Inlander. He moved to Spokane in 2015 from his hometown of St. Louis, and is a graduate of the University of Missouri. He likes bikes, beer and baseball. And coffee. He dislikes lemon candy, close-mindedness and liars. And temperatures below 40 degrees.

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...