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Spokane Mayor Woodward orders investigation into racism allegations against city administrator

The city’s legal and human resource teams will contract with a firm to facilitate access to resources and individuals at the request of the outside investigator.
Credit: City of Spokane
Johnnie Perkins - Spokane City Administrator

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward ordered an investigation Thursday into the allegations of discrimination made in an email by the outgoing Neighborhoods, Housing and Human Services Director against the city administrator.

Cupid Alexander, the man who for the last seven months has been in charge of Spokane's homelessness response, accused City Administrator Johnnie Perkins of treating him differently because he is Black in an email obtained by KREM.

According to a press release from the City of Spokane, an outside firm will be used to conduct the investigation. The city’s legal and human resource teams will contract with the firm to facilitate access to resources and individuals at the request of the outside investigator and serve as the point of contact.

“The allegations raised in an email yesterday morning are very serious and carry implications for our organization and community,” Woodward said in a press release. “We are taking immediate steps to determine the facts and it will require the City to seek outside assistance to conduct that investigation. Employees and the public needs to know that if they raise concerns they will be taken seriously.”

City leaders said the findings from the investigation will be delivered to city legal and human resources to determine their next steps.

On Tuesday, Alexander surprisingly announced he was resigning, but did not reveal any friction with other city leaders, saying in statements only that he was "transition[ing] to another journey at the end of next month," and that "the timing was right for me."

But in an email sent to Perkins on Wednesday morning, on which many other city leaders were copied, Alexander expressed extreme frustration with his treatment and experience working for the city.

"You have a routine history of misconstruing and inaccurately representing words and actions," Alexander wrote. "You have treated me in comparison to my peers in a very disparate way."

Alexander complained that Perkins was attempting to force him out of his role sooner than his announced July 30 end date by omitting him from meetings and asking him to hand over duties.

"I have nothing to do, as you have 'taken it all from here,'" he wrote. "You have not done this to ANY other leader in housing except me. I've watched as they have come and go, and yet none of them were treated like this, even as they took MONTHS of leave off with zero notice, leaving me and others to scrape together the work... even as I was a new employee who received ZERO onboarding."

"I'm trying to move on in peace, quite frankly for this EXACT treatment. And yet it continues. I'm unsure of why I'm being treated like this... I assume it's race," Alexander wrote. "As the lone black employee I'm tired of this treatment."

Alexander also described in the email an incident during which he says Perkins said that his son thought Alexander looked athletic, after which he asked whether Alexander played sports. Alexander said the remarks "had nothing to do with our conversation... and was stereotyping me in every possible way imaginable."

"I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this has been intentionally unethical, unequitable... direct mistreatment that I can attribute from YOUR treatment of me Johnnie, to my race," he wrote.

Furthermore, Alexander complained in his email that Perkins routinely asked communications be made in person rather than via email, so their conversations wouldn't be susceptible to public records requests.

"You were worried of the public information," he wrote. "Leadership requires accountability."