After seeing our report last week on two leaders being escorted out of Spokane Regional Health District amidst further cuts to leadership, Amelia Clark, the head boss there, called the cops to file a report on her staff for sharing a recording of what she said during a meeting.
Clark, the district's administrative officer, specified during a call to the nonemergency Crime Check number on Monday that she wanted an officer to come take her report in person at the health district, despite such reports typically being taken over the phone. She said her staff had shared with the Inlander a recording she didn't realize was being made of a staff meeting about the cuts.
Washington does require two-party or all-party consent for recording a private audio conversation, as spelled out in RCW 9.73.030. There are some exceptions in law and case law to that rule. In cases where judges had to decide whether a recording was illegal or not, higher courts have discussed at length whether individuals had a "reasonable expectation of privacy" or not in the incidents involved.
While the recorded meeting wasn't with all 200-plus staff at the district, dozens of people were reportedly on the call. All staff meetings are often recorded for internal use, but staff know that they are being recorded.
The Inlander used the recordings to make sure details in our coverage were accurate and to shortly quote sentiments from both staff and Clark who said that the cuts to leadership, which come on top of dozens of leaders leaving the district over the last two years, well, "suck."
The Crime Check dispatcher answers the first call at 4:24 pm, Dec. 6, and asks what the caller is reporting.
"Um hi, this is Amelia Clark at the Spokane Regional Health District and I need to have an officer respond for a report over here," Clark says on the call. "It’s not enough of an emergency to call 911, but um, I would like to have a city police officer respond."
The dispatcher asks for the address, and she tells him where the health district is located on College Avenue. Then he asks what she is trying to report.
"Um apparently today during a meeting I had staff members record me unbeknownst to my ... me," Clark states. "I did not know that they were recording me, and they have now sent it to press outlets, and after consulting with our attorney I need to file a report, and I ... I would prefer for the report to be done in person."
"Mmmkay, that's something that's typically done over the phone, but I'll certainly let them know that you're wanting it to be done in person," the dispatcher responds. "Um —"
"Yeah, I just talked to Sheriff [Ozzie] Knezovich and he recommended that that is how I request it," Clark cuts in.
"Sure, no that's totally fine," the dispatcher quickly responds. "I was just kind of giving you the heads up that they very well may call ya and tell you to do it over the phone, but I'll let 'em know that you want it in person."
After taking Clark's personal information (which the Inlander has bleeped out in the phone call in respect of her privacy) the dispatcher asks, "What's the person's name that recorded ya?"
"Um I don’t know, I just know that they sent it and now, um, the Inlander has stated in their, um, online that they have clips of this meeting. So I am unsure," Clark says. "But I do know everyone who was in attendance at the meeting so the officer will have a list to go off of."
Crime Check Call #1 Audio
In the second call to Crime Check a little after 5 pm Dec. 6, Clark tries to contact a lieutenant who she was told to call back.
On Tuesday morning, Dec. 7, Clark sent an email to all staff informing them of the state law on audio recording and noting it is a crime to not inform everyone they're being recorded.
An officer went to the district in person to take a written report at about 9:45 am on Wednesday, Dec. 8, says Spokane Police spokeswoman Julie Humphreys.
The person they spoke with (which the Crime Check calls indicate would be Clark) reported they felt their personal rights had been violated, Humphreys says.
"We did respond to it because there is some legislation that talks about violation of consent," Humphreys says, "and it has to do with someone who is recording what’s supposed to be a private conversation."
This type of call wouldn't go to major crimes, Humphreys says, so it's not like putting an officer on that call would be competing with a murder or other major incident. But it is not a common type of call that the department is asked to respond to, she says.
If an officer were to locate a suspect and the process moved forward, Clark could be asking police to charge an employee with a gross misdemeanor, which is punishable with up to 364 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
The Inlander asked via email and phone if Clark (or whoever had made the call) wanted to share more about feeling this was a violation of her privacy, comment on why it was necessary to call law enforcement, or talk about whether another type of conversation would be more appropriate to repair the apparently broken trust between staff and leadership.
Health district spokeswoman Kelli Hawkins says the district is "not going to speak to any actions that may involve law enforcement."
But she did send the following written statement:
"I can say concerned employees at SRHD alerted the administration of the recording of a meeting that had been made without their knowledge or consent. This was not an all-staff meeting, but rather one where team members were invited to share thoughts and concerns openly in a safe place where they trusted those in attendance. Hearing of this alleged recording, Administrative Officer Amelia Clark sent an email to all SRHD staff advising them of Washington State law concerning recordings of meetings and the importance of respecting their colleagues by asking for permission first."