UNITED STATES NEWS

Seattle to pay $2.3M to whistleblowers over ex-mayor Durkan’s 2020 deleted texts

May 12, 2023, 7:52 PM

SEATTLE (AP) — The city of Seattle will pay $2.3 million to settle a lawsuit brought by employees who helped reveal that thousands of then-Mayor Jenny Durkan’s text messages had been deleted in 2020 amid protests over George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

The terms of the city’s settlement with Stacy Irwin and Kimberly Ferreiro were finalized this week and released to The Seattle Times through a public disclosure request Friday, the newspaper reported.

After their whistleblower complaint in 2021, further scrutiny showed that texts of other top officials also were not retained from that period in 2020 when police used tear gas against Black Lives Matter protest crowds and temporarily vacated a police precinct during weeks of demonstrations. Protesters also temporarily occupied a small area of the city known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone.

The $2.3 million payout is in addition to nearly $800,000 spent by the city to defend the case.

Irwin and Ferreiro said they were mistreated as public-records officers in Durkan’s office for objecting to how the office was handling requests by reporters and others for records, including Durkan’s texts, according to their lawsuit. They said they were “subjected to scorn, ridicule, abuse and hostility … and the demand to perform illegal acts.”

They were compelled to resign rather than continue to endure the hostile work environment, according to their lawsuit.

The agreement says the settlement isn’t an admission of wrongdoing and prohibits the parties from talking publicly about the settlement amount.

Irwin said she is relieved to end “a dark chapter” in her life, but remains upset about having to rebuild her career and disturbed by what happened.

“There’s been no accountability,” she said. “These officials basically got away with it and the taxpayers are paying.”

Ferreiro described the mayor’s office as a “pressure cooker” and said the experience drove her to move out of Washington. She views the settlement as a win for whistleblowers, but remains a loss for Seattle residents because some questions about the city officials’ actions “will never be answered.”

Deputy City Attorney Scott Lindsay said in an email that the city attorney’s office is “pleased we were able to resolve this matter.”

Durkan didn’t return a request for comment from the newspaper.

Irwin and Ferreiro became whistleblowers when they told the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission about the mayor’s office mishandling public records requests. An investigation by the ethics commission determined that the mayor’s legal counsel, Michelle Chen, had violated the state Public Records Act by using narrow interpretations of certain requests to exclude Durkan’s missing texts.

An attorney for Chen called the investigation unfair, among other things arguing it failed to account for the involvement of others.

Texts and other communications about public business by local elected officials must be kept for at least two years, under state law. Anyone who willfully destroys a public record that’s supposed to be kept is guilty of a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

Durkan’s office initially cited an “unknown technology issue” behind the missing messages. A city-commissioned forensic report later found that Durkan’s phone was likely changed in July 2020 to delete texts automatically after 30 days and was also set to delete texts stored in the cloud.

Other officials with missing 2020 texts included then-police Chief Carmen Best and fire Chief Harold Scoggins, among others. Over 27,000 texts were deleted from Best’s phone, while phones used by Scoggins and others were reset in October 2020, a forensic report found.

Last summer, then-King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg asked Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall to investigate the deletion of Durkan’s texts and those of other city leaders. Cole-Tindall’s office has yet to announce any results.

United States News

Associated Press

10 years after armed standoff with federal agents, Bundy cattle are still grazing disputed rangeland

BUNKERVILLE, Nev. (AP) — The words “Revolution is Tradition” stenciled in fresh blue and red paint mark a cement wall in a dry river wash beneath a remote southern Nevada freeway overpass, where armed protesters and federal agents stared each other down through rifle sights 10 years ago. It was just before noon on a […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

1 dead after shuttle bus crashes at a Honolulu cruise ship terminal

HONOLULU (AP) — One person died and multiple people were injured when a shuttle bus collided with pedestrians and concrete barriers at a Honolulu cruise ship terminal, authorities said Friday. The crash occurred when the shuttle bus driver mistook the gas pedal for the brake, Honolulu police said in statement. The driver had dropped off […]

8 hours ago

Former President Donald Trump, center, appears in court for his arraignment, Tuesday, April 4, 2023...

Associated Press

Manhattan court searching for jurors to hear first-ever criminal case against a former president

Jury selection is set to start Monday in former President Donald Trump's hush money case — the first trial of the presumptive nominee.

9 hours ago

Emergency personnel arrive on the scene after a  an 18-wheeler crashed into the Texas Department of...

Associated Press

1 dead and 13 injured in semitrailer crash at a Texas public safety office, with the driver jailed

A driver rammed an 18-wheeler though the front of a building where his renewal for a commercial driver’s license had been rejected.

10 hours ago

Associated Press

Officer who fatally shot Kawaski Trawick 5 years ago won’t be disciplined, police commissioner says

NEW YORK (AP) — Two New York City police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Kawaski Trawick inside his Bronx apartment five years ago will not face internal discipline, the city’s police commissioner, Edward Caban, announced Friday. In a statement, Caban said the officers, Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis, “acted within the law” in […]

10 hours ago

Associated Press

Dallas doctor convicted of tampering with IV bags linked to co-worker’s death and other emergencies

DALLAS (AP) — A Dallas anesthesiologist was convicted Friday for injecting a nerve-blocking agent and other drugs into bags of intravenous fluid at a surgical center where he worked, which led to the death of a co-worker and caused cardiac emergencies for several patients, federal prosecutors said. A jury convicted Raynaldo Riviera Ortiz Jr., 60, […]

11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Seattle to pay $2.3M to whistleblowers over ex-mayor Durkan’s 2020 deleted texts