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Rantz: Lisa Herbold urged Seattle police chief to investigate political rival

Embattled Seattle city councilmember Lisa Herbold asked the chief of Seattle police to consider charging a political rival for theft of an RV she assumed was stolen, but wasn’t, according to text messages acquired by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

Now, Herbold stands accused by the rival of not just asking for special treatment due to her status on the council, but using her position for a “vendetta” against a private citizen.

A day after community activist Ari Hoffman threatened to move derelict RVs near the homes of council members Deborah Juarez and Bruce Harrell, an RV was parked in front of the West Seattle home of Herbold (not her North Bend home). It was assumed that the RV was parked by an activist making a point that the problem had gotten out of control, thanks to questionable decisions by Herbold. It turned out to be a total coincidence.

Before the RV issue became a media spectacle, Herbold texted Seattle police chief Carmen Best for help on what to do, a detail Herbold withheld when asked about her contact with police.

Now text messages reveal Herbold suspected Hoffman of stealing the RV and parking it outside her home, asking Chief Best if he should be charged with theft.

The texts

On October 8 at 7:19 p.m., Herbold texted Best a photo of a UHaul truck towing an RV, asking “if someone has reported a trailer stolen” since “one has been delivered to the street in front of my house.” She insisted that she was “not complaining” but wanted to “ensure the property is returned to its owner.” Herbold told Best that “I have the uhaul license plate in case you want to investigates [sic] a theft.”

Best didn’t have Herbold’s contact in her phone, responding “Who is this?”

Herbold then identified herself and texted a link to a previous story I wrote about Hoffman’s proposed RV stunt. That story does not mention Herbold. Nevertheless, it appears Herbold took that as potential evidence that Hoffman was involved.

“I’m not asking you to move it,” Herbold texted. “Ari will twist that as special SPD response for a Councilmember.”

Herbold would then ask for special response for a council member, specifically asking Best to “confirm from Uhaul that Ari rented the uhaul [sic] & towed it there and you can consider whether it’s appropriate to charge him with theft.”

It seems somewhat reasonable for Herbold to suspect Hoffman, even if her name wasn’t mentioned in the story she cited. Many people falsely believed this was a political stunt, though this happened on Yom Kippur when Hoffman, an orthodox Jew, wouldn’t be permitted to drive the UHaul. But it’s baffling to assume that, if Hoffman was involved, he would steal an RV.

The photo

The photo Herbold texted appears to be the same one posted on Twitter by community activist Spekulation. Her photo was texted at 7:19 p.m. on October 8. Spekulation Tweeted the photo exactly an hour later at 8:19 p.m. blaming Hoffman or someone working on his behalf (a claim he would later walk back).

In a written statement, Herbold said the photo was taken by a neighbor on her street and posted by them to Facebook. She went on to note that Spekulation took the photo from that Facebook post for his own Tweet.

Special treatment

Best refused to offer Herbold any special treatment, nor investigate the plates as Herbold requested. Best said that she understands Herbold’s concern with the RV, but advised calling the non-emergency number.

In my original report last week, Herbold left out key details explaining her request, perhaps suspecting the public disclosure request wouldn’t come out before the election were over (I was forwarded these texts by someone who made a public disclosure request). Not only do we now know she made a direct appeal to the Chief of Police, a privilege regular citizens don’t have the ability to make, Herbold also wanted Best to “confirm” a political rival of hers was involved in a theft of an RV that wasn’t stolen.

Responding to the allegation she pushed for an investigation into Hoffman, Herbold issued the following statement:

I did not ‘ask for an investigation.’ I asked how I could determine if the trailer was recovered stolen property. IF the trailer was stolen, SPD would then have to determine whether a theft investigation was warranted based upon Mr. Hoffman’s many public statements that he intended to take an RV that didn’t belong to him to park in front of Councilmembers homes.

Hoffman has consistently maintained that he was not behind the RV stunt. Indeed, the couple behind the RV came forward. But he also tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that this displays shows Herbold’s hypocrisy.

“If the people living in the RVs are just our ‘unsheltered neighbors’ as her and the other council members claim, there should never have been a problem with the RVs parking outside her house,” Hoffman told me. “I am curious why councilmember Lisa Herbold would assume that posts by Twitter trolls accusing me of being the one behind it were true with no evidence. She should have done her research before targeting a private citizen with false accusations of criminal activity and leveraging her government position to try to get the Seattle Chief of police to act on it.”

Hoffman says he’s pleased that Chief Best exercised “good judgment” rather than “acting on a vendetta request from a government official who was attempting to use her position of power against a private citizen.”

Hoffman also filed a complaint against Lisa Herbold with the city’s Ethics and Election Commission.

“I know she is up for re- election today but even if she loses I wish to continue pursuing this because, to quote my high school principal, this should be on her ‘permanent record,'” his complaint reads.

This news comes as Herbold fights to retain her seat on the Seattle City Council. A neighborhood group of local business owners has rallied hard against Herbold for not understanding the district, while the Vice President of the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild called her out for a “bewildering lack of awareness” on Seattle safety. Meanwhile, Herbold allies are actively skirting Facebook rules to promote her campaign, despite repeated moves by Facebook to pull the advertisements.

Polling has Herbold neck and neck with challenger Phil Tavel.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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