Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Retired cop files Straub-related public records claim against the city

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 2:15 PM

click to enlarge Retired cop files Straub-related public records claim against the city
Photo courtesy of Brian Breen
Retired SPD cop Brian Breen, pictured above, has filed a legal claim against the city, claiming it withheld records related to former Police Chief Frank Straub.

It wasn't just journalists filing public records requests trying to figure out what happened with former police Chief Frank Straub's resignation. 

Some of the most detailed public records requests came from Brian Breen, a long-retired cop who often writes lengthy manifestos on his blog offering his critical interpretations of internal politics of the Spokane Police Department in granular detail.

And now, as anticipated, Breen has filed a legal claim against the City of Spokane, arguing that the city violated state public records law. Specifically, he claims that significant documents, concerning former police spokeswoman Monique Cotton's sexual harassment allegations against Straub, were withheld until after the election.

The 18-page claim largely reiterates the conclusions of independent investigator Kris Cappel, who determined last month that the city attorney's office had intentionally withheld important documents that had been requested. Both note that the city attorney's office had possession of most of the crucial documents for five months before delivering them to the city clerk's office. They also point out that City Administrator Theresa Sanders knew that the city attorney's office had the documents, but did not alert the city clerk's office to their existence or bother to search for other copies of the documents.

"By delaying the release of the documents that were responsive to Plaintiff's request," the claim reads, "the city of Spokane violated the requirement of the [Public Records Act] that every 'agency... shall make available for public inspection and copying all public records,' and that the responses shall be prompt."

The Condon administration has repeatedly denied that any records were withheld for any reason other than the sheer workload that the city clerks and city attorneys office faced to comb through tens of thousands of pages of emails and other documents. 

Breen hasn't been convinced by this argument.

"I want to make it clear that my decision to pursue this isn’t for any political reasons, I don’t have any specific political ideology," Breen wrote in a statement e-mailed to the Inlander Sunday.  "My sole purpose is to get to the truth, and as I have stated many times, in Spokane, unfortunately, the only way to get to the truth is through litigation where individuals can be deposed under oath, evidence obtained through the Court’s discovery process, and where a judge can review claims of attorney-client privilege."

Breen's being represented by the Center for Justice, the same organization that has been representing the National Organization for Women in accusing the mayor of dishonesty before the ethics commission. The Center for Justice, a legal aid non-profit, has a long history of litigating public records lawsuits

click to enlarge Retired cop files Straub-related public records claim against the city
Daniel Walters photo
The Center for Justice's Rick Eichstaedt is representing long-retired SPD cop Brian Breen in his legal claim against the city
The claim requests that Superior Court declare that the city of Spokane had violated the Public Records act, and fine the city $100 per day per page of illegally delayed documents.

Breen, who has been a frequent and occasionally controversial commenter on the Inlander and the Spokesman-Review websites, writes that he is not looking for money. Instead, he writes, he fully intends "to donate the proceeds of this case to groups that advocate for independent oversight."

Read the whole claim below: 

Breen Public Records Complaint by DanielWalters on Scribd

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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...