U.S. Attorney says city officials need to resolve dispute over SPD reforms

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by LINDA BYRON / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @LByronK5

KING5.com

Posted on March 7, 2013 at 1:47 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 7 at 6:35 PM

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said Thursday afternoon that her office will not send a representative to a Monday meeting called to settle differences on a monitoring plan for Seattle's Police Department.

Durkan's statement to KING 5 contradicted an announcement earlier Thursday from Mayor Mike McGinn's office that all parties -- the mayor, city attorney, federal monitor, SPD and Justice Department -- would be represented at the meeting.

Durkan said she didn't believe the Justice Department needed to be present at a meeting aimed at resolving differences between McGinn and City Attorney Pete Holmes.

"The real conflict right now is in the city itself," Durkan said. "They need to repair their own house, get one voice and move forward."

Durkan was referring to an open dispute between McGinn and City Attorney Pete Holmes over whether the city should accept the monitoring plan submitted by Bobb.,” U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan said in a statement.

Durkan noted that her office announced Wednesday that it supports Bobb's plan and that it's up to the city to come to agreement internally before a federal judge reviews the plan in court on Tuesday.

While the Justice Department is backing Bobb's plan, McGinn has held back, engaging in a public dispute with the city attorney over who is authorized to give the city’s stamp of approval for the monitoring plan. McGinn publicly slammed the plan just hours after it was filed in federal court Tuesday, saying Bobb's approach would be too slow and too costly.

McGinn

sent a memo

to Holmes on Tuesday, ordering him not to approve the plan on behalf of the city, even though Holmes maintains it’s his job as elected city attorney to do just that.  A

separate scathing letter

to Pete Holmes from the Mayor’s legal counsel, Carl Marquardt, accused Holmes of undermining the Mayor and Police Chief John Diaz by communicating privately with Merrick Bobb and the Department of Justice over what should be in the monitoring plan.  The letter states that the Mayor is the “chief law enforcement officer for the city” and is therefore responsible for carrying out the settlement agreement.  

Holmes has asserted that as the elected city attorney he has “supervisory control” over the city’s litigation, which includes negotiations on the plan to carry out a city’s settlement agreement between Seattle and the Department of Justice.

McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus said Thursday that McGinn has requested a separate meeting with Holmes to clarify the role of the city attorney.

However, Kimberley Mills, spokeswoman for the City Attorney told KING 5 that “the Mayor has not contacted the City Attorney in any way shape or form, except through the media.”  

Pickus said Thursday that McGinn has requested a separate meeting with Holmes to clarify the role of the city attorney.

On Tuesday, McGinn's differences over Holmes' role were on full display. “The ball is in Pete’s court,” said McGinn. “Is he going to accept direction from the executive branch of government, or will he go another direction?”

Holmes fired back with his own statement saying he’s pleased that McGinn is ready to “work with us on the process of reform.”  But Holmes said he also hopes that the Mayor is rethinking his letter, which Holmes said was “filled with inaccurate and unwarranted accusations and assertions, and even called for litigation between the Mayor’s office and our office.”

Holmes said that “until the Mayor withdraws and disclaims” the letter and memorandum, “we will be forced to continue preparing a response.”

For his part, Bobb said, “I am not attempting to involve myself in Seattle politics.” Bobb said his proposed plan is a collaborative one.

“Last week, when I was in Seattle, I spent the better part of three days negotiating with all the parties, listening to all their comments and their comments were all incorporated into the monitoring plan, so if the SPD wants to see if their comments were incorporated, it was, the mayor, it was,” Bobb said.

The feud is escalating just as Bobb prepares to brief the Seattle City Council Monday, and update a federal judge Tuesday, on how Seattle intends to address problems of excessive force and concerns over biased policing.

“Some of this drama is exciting, it’s interesting, it’s not reform and it’s not effective policing and that’s really where I want to see us try to regain focus,” said Seattle City Council President Sally Clark.

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