Lawsuits reveal city is missing June 2020 text messages from Seattle mayor, SPD leaders, fire chief

May 10, 2021, 7:22 AM | Updated: 12:04 pm
police, missing text messages...
Police Chief Carmen Best, center, speaks at at a news conference, Monday, July 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Lawsuits filed against the City of Seattle related to protests that took place last June revealed that the city is missing text messages from Mayor Jenny Durkan, then-SPD Chief Carmen Best, Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, and several other SPD leaders.

Mayor’s office avoided answering records requests for missing texts

One of the lawsuits — brought on behalf of Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County — had sought to use texts among city leadership to paint a picture of behind-the-scenes communication that led to the frequent use of tear gas during protests early last summer. Another filed by Capitol Hill residents and businesses had looked to decipher the series of events leading up to SPD abandoning the East Precinct last June, and the eventual creation of the CHOP.

Concurrently, there’s an investigation into a whistleblower complaint revealed last week that Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office failed to properly handle a series of public records requests, after it discovered that 10-months of the mayor’s text messages between August 2019 and June 2020 had gone missing. According to the city attorney’s office, that gap was caused by “a retention setting in her iPhone.”

Lawsuits against the city subsequently revealed that Durkan’s texts weren’t the only ones among local leaders that had disappeared, with the list also including Best, Scoggins, and multiple members of SPD’s command staff, according to a report from the Seattle Times.

ACLU files contempt motion against Seattle over SPD protest response

The city attorney’s office told the Times it is “still ascertaining” how Best’s text went missing, while Scoggins was said to have been “locked out of his phone because of password issues.” Texts among members of SPD’s command staff from last June allegedly went missing due to “password and device management software problems.”

Neither Seattle Fire nor SPD have provided an explanation into how texts from their respective leadership disappeared.

City officials are required by law to preserve their correspondence for public records.

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Lawsuits reveal city is missing June 2020 text messages from Seattle mayor, SPD leaders, fire chief