SPOKANE, Wash.—Mayor David Condon weighed in Wednesday on the issue between former Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub and allegations that he tried to kiss a coworker. Meanwhile, the lawyer for Frank Straub is firing back.
KREM 2 on Your Side obtained a series of text, emails and formally written notes on Tuesday from the City of Spokane regarding complaints against former Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub that claim he sexually harassed a female employee, Monique Cotton, and tried to kiss her. At the time Cotton worked as the Director of Communications and Public Information.
In a statement released Wednesday, Condon defended the process behind not making the claims against Condon public.
"Personnel matters can present difficult challenges. Ms. Cotton raised concerns in April and made it very clear at that time that she did not want to pursue a formal complaint or investigation. We committed to Ms. Cotton at that time that her employment was safe and that we would honor her request.
Our concern from the beginning has been for the employee and respecting her request to not place additional attention on her. When other members of the Spokane Police Division expressed broader behavioral concerns in September we took steps to investigate and confirm those allegations.
Had we aired this publicly sooner that would have meant going back on my word to Ms. Cotton and bringing more hurt and stress to an already difficult situation. We are always going to offer our employees a safe place to air their concerns without bringing extra attention that may discourage them from coming forward.
Ms. Cotton's move to the Parks Division communications role filled a need to support the significant public investment in Riverfront Park. She has done great work in that role and we support her ongoing efforts there."
Amid a series of complaints from additional co-workers, Straub resigned in October after coworkers accused him of intimidation, personal attacks and threats. However, Straub's lawyer argues that he was fired and did not resign.
Straub's lawyer, Mary Schultz, fired back following Condon's statement on Wednesday.
She claimed the above statement by Condon confirms he never investigated any of these damaging accusations, "gave his word to an accusing employee that he wouldn't investigate their accusations, gave the accuser what they asked for without question, and then publicly denied all of it."
Schultz went on to state that Condon had thrown the Straub under the bus.
"Mayor Condon assures us that he will continue to protect the feelings of an accuser who won't allow their claims to be investigated," added Shultz.
Records released Tuesday stated that Cotton met with City Administrator Theresa Sanders in April 2015 to voice her concerns about Straub. Handwritten notes from Sanders after the meeting said Cotton was distraught and claimed Straub "grabbed her ass and tried to kiss her."
Sanders said in the notes she forwarded the claims to Mayor David Condon to investigate.
KREM 2 on Your Side also obtained a letter from April 13th from Cotton to Sanders about moving her out of the police department because of the alleged sexual harassment.
The letter reads:
"My transfer to a new position has to be viewed as advancement; without any hint that it is for any reason other than as a promotion for my past performance. I'm happy to participate in any investigation regarding the way I was berated on March 31, and other times I was berated however cannot cooperate with any investigation regarding the matters I presented confidentially to the Mayor and you because of the inevitable publicity and disclosures that will impact me and my life in every way – physically, emotionally, and professionally."
In November, Cotton released a statement to KREM 2 News following the release of records which showed her claims against Straub.
"I have made significant efforts to discreetly and professionally navigate this extremely difficult work situation. I sought legal counsel because I feared for my safety and the security of my employment. In addition to the harassment I reported to city leaders, my concerns mirror those outlined by the current Executive Staff and the Lieutenants and Captains Association. My goal has never been to profit from this terrible situation and to date I have not filed a claim for damages. Rather, I am trying to survive these awful circumstances, maintain my employment and continue to productively contribute to the City of Spokane."
A few months later on June 8, Cotton's attorney, Bob Dunn, wrote an aggressive letter to Mayor David Condon and Sanders demanding $13,276.89 for fees and expenses.
A few days later, Dunn and City of Spokane Attorney Nancy Isserlis traded snarky emails over the payment. Dunn suggested a "reimbursement agreement" to keep the documents from being discovered in a public records request like the one KREM 2 News filed.
On June 17, Dunn wrote another aggressive letter that threatens to go public with Cotton's claims.
The letter said Cotton did not file a formal claim against the city. Dunn said if a formal claim is required for payment of fees, it would include accusations that the mayor ignored Straub's past history of inappropriate behavior with female subordinates. He also writes that Straub created a work environment that was so sexually charged and hostile it caused the discharge of his client.
Dunn wrote, "The City should know by now that I have absolutely no problem filing tort claims against it. However in this situation, that was not the course my client wanted to pursue, nor was it the agreement."
Late Tuesday night, Straub's attorney, Mary Schultz, responded by email to the claims in the records and Cotton's response, but didn't directly address any of the claims against Straub.
Schultz wrote, "Why is Cotton releasing her own statement to the press? Is she still at the city? If so, then whose version is her statement?"
Schultz also wrote, "It appears that Ms. Cotton hired the very attorney who repeatedly sues the city, and that attorney ended up begging for $13,000. A letter from a lawyer saying, 'I just might file a tort claim and if I do it will something like this…(insert histrionic unfounded but wildly salacious accusations here) unless you give me $13,000' means just about what it says."
Schultz calls into question a claim by Cotton to Sanders that Cotton has texts from Straub to support Cotton's claims of Straub's inappropriate behavior by writing, "If Ms. Cotton has texts as she states to Sanders, where are they?"
Schultz concludes by calling the claims in the records "preposterous—this is a salacious and methodical diversion by the city from the real issue. If the city gave Ms. Cotton a 'job advancement' because she springboarded from a reprimand into a new job description by threatening false claims of harassment, then that has nothing to do with merit, and everything to do with why Spokane is now seen nationally as a city that can't keep its police chiefs."