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‘Sad day for Seattle’: City officials clash as police monitor submits oversight plan

Monitor Merrick Bobb Tuesday submitted his formal oversight plan to reform the Seattle Police Department.(Police Assessment Resource Center photo )

The independent monitor tasked with overseeing Seattle Police Department reforms submitted his proposed plan to a federal judge for approval Tuesday.

Monitor Merrick Bobb said the plan will serve as a roadmap to meaningful reforms stipulated under a settlement agreement between the city and the Department of Justice after a federal investigation found Seattle police officers have a pattern of using excessive force.

Meanwhile, City Attorney Pete Holmes called Tuesday a “sad day for Seattle,” and accused Mayor Mike McGinn of preventing the city from moving forward “to achieve lasting reform of our Police Department.”

Bobb’s plan, which the city will have an opportunity to agree upon, would govern only the first year of reforms. It establishes clear deadlines for implementation of reforms in “priority areas,” such as training, supervision, use-of-force and bias-free policing.

Under the plan, the monitor would submit semi-annual reports on the city’s progress and would deliver his first formal review in February 2014.

Bobb’s proposal comes amid a very public battle between City Attorney Holmes and Mayor McGinn that escalated after KIRO Radio released a pointed email between the two officials last week.

In it, McGinn accused Holmes of undercutting the city’s objectives in matters of police reform and breaching attorney-client privilege by sharing confidential information with Bobb.

Due to what he called a “clear conflict of interest,” McGinn called on Holmes to agree to an “ethical screen,” which would bar him from representing the city in ongoing negotiations with the Department of Justice.

Holmes refused to do so and said Tuesday that McGinn’s accusations were counterproductive.

“Now is the time when City leaders should be working together to achieve lasting reform of our Police Department,” he said in a statement. “It is especially sad for the women and men of SPD who want us all to move forward, together.”

In a memo sent Tuesday, McGinn told Holmes that the city has concerns with Bobb’s proposed reform plan, which he claims includes requirements that would lead to unnecessary delays.

“Accordingly, do not represent to the court or the monitor that the city has approved a monitoring plan until you have received written authorization from me that the plan satisfactorily meets our objectives,” McGinn wrote.

McGinn also expressed ongoing concerns with the monitor’s billing practices.

As KIRO Radio first reported, the city took issue with several items Merrick Bobb and his team expensed, including “alcohol and alcohol-related items.”

According to numbers released by the City Budget Office Tuesday, the city has been unable to resolve $11,612 in “undocumented or questioned travel and accommodation charges” submitted from November 2012 to January 2013.

The monitoring team has also declined repeated requests from the city that they provide a breakdown for $167,145 in hours they billed during the same time period.

“That being said, the City Attorney has approved all of these charges for payment,” City Budget Office Director Beth Goldberg said in a memo Tuesday.

McGinn has directed Holmes to hold off on approving further bills from the monitoring team without written approval from Goldberg.

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