Still questions over timeline of Mayor Durkan’s missing texts in wake of forensic report

Feb 14, 2022, 8:17 AM | Updated: 9:17 am
city budget, Jenny Durkan, missing texts...
Former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images, File)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images, File)

A newly-released forensic report confirms that missing text messages from former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s phone were the result of a retention setting in her phone being reconfigured in early July of 2020.

Public records expert: Missing texts from city leaders are ‘very suspicious’

In August of 2020, Durkan’s then-legal counsel, Michelle Chen, discovered that the mayor’s text messages between August 2019 and June 2020 had not been retained. According to whistleblower complaints from Public Records Officers Stacy Irwin and Kim Ferreiro, Chen later directed them to “narrowly interpret 48 pending requests … identified as requesting the Mayor’s text messages,” in an attempt to conceal the fact that the messages were missing.

It was later discovered that text messages spanning the summer of 2020 from devices belonging to then-Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, multiple members of SPD’s command staff, and Fire Chief Harold Scoggins had also disappeared.

That had a California-based cybersecurity company tasked by the Seattle City Attorney’s Office with compiling a forensic report to determine how the texts from city leaders had gone missing. Released last Friday, the report found that sometime between July 4 and July 22, 2020, the retention setting on Durkan’s phone was changed to automatically delete any text messages older than 30 days on a nightly rolling basis. The setting was then reconfigured to retain all messages indefinitely sometime between July 22 and July 26.

For Chief Best, the report found that she had deleted text message conversations “periodically,” consistent with an explanation she had delivered in a deposition.

Missing messages from both Durkan and Best also coincided with ongoing social justice protests across the Seattle area, as well as the creation of the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest in late June, and its subsequent dismantling days before Durkan’s retention settings were changed to automatically delete old messages.

According to a statement from Durkan to the Seattle Times, her phone had “fallen into salt water” on July 4. She claims that when she was issued a new phone on July 9, the city’s information technology department had configured the phone with the 30-day text message retention setting. That said, the forensic report indicated that the setting may have been reconfigured prior to her being issued the new phone, casting some doubt on her alleged timeline.

Seattle councilmember proposes new office for records requests

There are also questions surrounding why the city’s IT department would configure a new phone with settings that would compromise record-keeping.

“When I worked for the City of Seattle I had two city issued iPhones during my tenure, and both were setup to retain messages forever,” former Communications Director for Seattle’s Office of Economic Development Joe Mirabella said on Twitter. “IT knew messages needed to be retained and everyone who works for the city is trained in records retention.”

That said, Durkan asserts that the report proves she was not the one responsible for deleting the missing messages, and that she had believed her phone was retaining her texts all along.

“As I have said all along, I did not change the retention settings on my phone and intentionally delete any data,” she told the Times. “The forensic report confirms my actions did not delete messages from the phone.”

Meanwhile, there are multiple active lawsuits filed against the city involving the missing texts. That includes Irwin and Ferreiro — the two initial whistleblowers — who are suing over claims that they were retaliated against and eventually forced to quit their jobs as public records officers. The Seattle Times is suing over how its public disclosure requests for the messages were handled.

Local News

Seattle likes Taylor Swift songs...
Micki Gamez

Seattle’s most downloaded songs and artists may surprise you

Newly released Spotify data says Taylor Swift is Seattle's most downloaded and listened to artist of the year 2022.
1 day ago
Stevens Pass skiing...
Heather Bosch

Stevens Pass vows to do better during this ski and snowboard season

The Stevens Pass Ski resort is open and it's under pressure to show skiers and snowboarders it has changed for the better.
1 day ago
Sunken ship Pacific...
Feliks Banel

Sunken ship lost 150 years ago, found off WA coast

The wreck of a sunken ship off the coast of Washington nearly 150 years ago has been found by a pair of maritime historians.
1 day ago
Puget Sound snow...
Bill Kaczaraba

Some snow into the Puget Sound region overnight

Friday snow is always a little bit different than Monday through Thursday snow. Friday snow is generally part of the holiday wonder.
1 day ago
human caused...
L.B. Gilbert

Small Business Administration offers disaster relief after Bolt Creek Fire

The SBA announced Thursday that they would be offering disaster relief loans to businesses impacted by the Bolt Creek Fire.
1 day ago
L.B. Gilbert

Stevens Pass, Summit at Snoqualmie open with fresh snow

Ready to shred some powder? Stevens Pass and the Summit at Snoqualmie both announced that they would be opening this Friday
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Still questions over timeline of Mayor Durkan’s missing texts in wake of forensic report