THE city of Seattle’s two top elected leaders have sunk into a needless feud at the very moment they should be focused on police reform.
This week, Mayor Mike McGinn effectively tried to fire City Attorney Pete Holmes off the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against the Seattle police, accusing Holmes of failing to represent him and his police chief.
Holmes’ role as the city’s chief litigator is ensconced in the Seattle charter. He is the city’s lawyer, as well as McGinn’s. And as an elected official with extensive experience in police accountability, he has a clear role negotiating how Seattle police will be monitored under a legal settlement with the DOJ.
Next week, Merrick Bobb, an independent monitor for the settlement, will present his plan in court. Who will stand up to represent the city at that hearing — Holmes or McGinn’s in-house lawyers — is unclear. U.S. District Court Judge James Robart should not put up with this foolish standoff, if it continues.
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McGinn and the police want an agreement based on a narrow reading of the settlement. Holmes appears willing to accept a broader reading, one more in line with Bobb’s. This created a three-way negotiating morass.
But the differences are not vast. The mayor and city attorney should be able to negotiate with each other in good faith. Instead, we have two leaders who share most politics and constituencies, but clearly don’t like each other.
At a recent forum after marijuana was legalized, McGinn publicly disrespected Holmes, purposely declining to call him onstage to bask in the victory. Holmes, a cornerstone of the legalization campaign, walked out, shaking his head.
McGinn extended an olive branch Wednesday, inviting Holmes, Bobb and police Chief John Diaz to meet. If he’s serious, he should start by rescinding his effective firing of Holmes.
McGinn and Holmes are both up for election this year. If leaders can’t put aside differences for the public good, voters should remember so.