City responds in Zehm case, now says FAQ sheet "was not perfect"



Posted on October 1, 2011 at 4:11 PM

Updated Sunday, Oct 2 at 8:24 AM

SPOKANE --Four days after a federal prosecutor called out Spokane Mayor Mary Verner for handing out an FAQ sheet with “patently false statements” on the Otto Zehm case, the City of Spokane finally responded to the prosecutor’s accusations.

Saturday afternoon City of Spokane Public Affairs Officer Marlene Feist sent an email to KREM 2 News admitting the City “was not perfect” in its FAQ sheet.

All of this stems from the beating of a mentally disabled man in 2006.  Otto Zehm headed into a Zip Trip on North Division in Spokane to buy a candy bar when he was beaten, tasered and restrained by Spokane Police who mistakenly thought he was a burglary suspect.  Zehm died two days after the incident.

In court documents filed on September 28th, Federal Prosecutor Tim Durkin accused Mayor Verner of handing out “patently false statements” in the Zehm case.  Durkin referenced a list of frequently asked questions handed out by Mayor Verner at a news conference on September 9th that said City of Spokane attorneys met with federal prosecutors in 2009.  In court documents Durkin said that meeting never happened.

Verner is running for re-election in November.
The following is Feist’s email to KREM 2 News on Saturday explaining how the City of Spokane came to agree with Durkin that the meeting on the date referenced in the FAQ never happened on the date specified:

"We tracked the meeting with the U.S. Attorney issue to ground yesterday afternoon but it does require some context. 

 The issues raised by the U.S. Attorney in an email in June 2009 were similar to issues that had been raised for months.  We did have that meeting between attorneys but it was in March 2009, not June.  I have attached the calendar item from March.

In June, our attorneys attempted to set up a meeting with the Mayor, City Administrator Ted Danek, Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and members of the U.S. Attorney's office.  The then-U.S. Attorney Jim McDevitt ultimately decided he only needed to meet with the Chief, which did occur.  Additionally, we did indicate that we had received the emails from Mr. Durkin and that our attorneys would address those topics of concern. All of this is addressed in an email chain that is attached between our City Attorney and the then-U.S. Attorney Jim McDevitt.

Our FAQ on this point was not perfect, and unfortunately, we mixed up the March meeting and the June attempt at a meeting."

Feist’s email was sent after KREM 2 News crews tried to get a response three different times from the City of Spokane concerning Durkin’s accusations.  Most recently a KREM 2 News crew approached Mayor Verner outside of Truth Ministries Friday night where she had a scheduled public appearance to try to get answers to the rare accusations made by a federal prosecutor against a mayor of a city.   KREM 2 News also tried to talk with City of Spokane attorneys Rocky Treppiedi and Howard Delaney (who were listed on the FAQ sheet as having attended the meeting in 2009 with federal prosecutors) on Friday about whether or not they attended a meeting with the federal prosecutors, but their receptionist said they had no comment.  On Thursday when KREM 2 News first reported Durkin’s accusations and tried to get a comment from Mayor Verner at City Hall, a City of Spokane employee told KREM 2 News the mayor had no comment.