Mayor Mike McGinn agreed Friday to accept an independent monitor’s proposed first-year plan to carry out far-reaching reforms in the Seattle Police Department, ending two weeks of acrimony that threatened to harm the effort.
McGinn, who had opposed elements of the plan, reversed course only days before a court hearing where he faced the possibility that the federal judge overseeing the case would approve the monitor’s proposals.
In addition, the City Council had invited the monitor, Merrick Bobb, to brief the council on Monday, raising the prospect that council members would publicly praise the plan in light of their past support of Bobb.
McGinn also found himself entangled in a lingering dispute with City Attorney Pete Holmes over who had the legal authority to represent the city’s view of Bobb’s plan.
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The plan lays out specific steps for meeting the terms of a settlement agreement reached in July between the city and the Department of Justice to address excessive use of force and biased policing.
Although the dispute between Holmes and McGinn remains unresolved, the mayor’s office said in a statement that it would work with the city attorney’s staff to prepare court papers consistent with a conversation McGinn had with Bobb on Friday. That conversation allayed a “number of the concerns that the city of Seattle has had with the proposed monitoring plan,” the mayor’s office said.
U.S. District Judge James Robart has scheduled a hearing Tuesday, where he is expected to consider the 23-page monitoring plan that Bobb submitted earlier this week.
Late Friday afternoon, Holmes filed a formal notice with Robart giving the city’s approval to the plan. It noted that the city’s concerns that the plan didn’t provide for “prompt adoption” of reforms had been addressed in discussions with Bobb.
“Holmes is pleased that Mayor McGinn now accepts the Monitor’s filed plan,” his office said in a statement, adding Holmes looked forward to working with the mayor, the monitor, the Police Department, the City Council and the Justice Department in moving forward with the reforms.
McGinn’s office said in a statement that, after a “good conversation” with Bobb, McGinn accepted the plan based on a “mutual understanding that the plan is a living document” that can be amended. The parties also will work together on timelines for adopting the reforms detailed in the settlement agreement, the statement said.
McGinn and Bobb further agreed to hold regular meetings in an effort to “better align the work of the City and the monitor on reform, which the City Attorney will also attend,” the statement added.
Federal attorneys accepted the plan earlier this week.
In a written statement Friday, Thomas Bates, executive assistant U.S. attorney in Seattle, said the Justice Department was pleased by the city’s decision.
“The City’s agreement clears the way for the Court to approve the plan, which will guide reform efforts,” Bates said. “The Monitoring Plan lays out a collaborative and timely approach to implementing reforms that provides clear guidance and deadlines for the Seattle Police Department.”
Bobb’s plan had been overshadowed by the dispute between McGinn and Holmes, which peaked Tuesday when McGinn ordered Holmes to obtain his written permission before representing to the judge and Bobb that the city approved of the plan.
Holmes, who favored a more collaborative approach with Bobb, maintained that as the elected city attorney, he serves as the city’s chief litigator, with the mandate to act in the best interests of the city.
McGinn’s legal counsel also sent a separate letter to Holmes on Tuesday, in which he accused Holmes of unethically interfering in negotiations with Bobb and suggested they jointly ask a state court judge to settle who had the authority to oversee the city’s response.
On Wednesday, McGinn said he regretted the public battle and sought a meeting to stem the fighting. But Holmes demanded McGinn withdraw and disclaim the accusations regarding his integrity. As of Friday, the mayor had not taken that step, Holmes’ office said.
City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, the head of the council’s public-safety committee, said that when Bobb appears before the council on Monday, he is likely to be greeted with a favorable reaction to his plan.
However, Harrell, who is running against McGinn in this year’s mayoral election, said he had some concerns about how the collective-bargaining rights of police officers will be resolved as the reforms are carried out.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org