Jeff Simpson, of Gladstone, Oregon, said that he decided to file the claim “to help me with closure and to vindicate my name.” Ed Murray, who resigned in September, has persistently denied the allegations of Simpson and four other accusers.
The former foster son of ex-Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has filed a claim for damages against the city, contending that last year it negligently failed to investigate his and other men’s allegations that Murray sexually abused them decades ago, and instead enabled the mayor to use his public office and city resources to undertake “a smear campaign” that defamed his accusers.
Jeff Simpson’s claim notice says he intends to eventually sue both the city and Murray to let a jury decide the amount Simpson should be compensated for damages and legal costs, noting that figure could exceed $1 million.
“Mr. Murray and his team were allowed to use and abuse the full might and power of Murray’s position to wage a full-fledged campaign of disparagement and slander against Mr. Simpson and other survivors who came forward. And the leaders of the City of Seattle, who oftentimes publicly (and privately) sided with Mr. Murray, did nothing to stop his abuse of power,” according to the claim, filed Wednesday on behalf of Simpson by his Seattle attorney, Cheryl Snow.
A spokesman for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office said in an email Wednesday the city “will be more extensively reviewing and assessing (the claim) before deciding how to proceed.” Steve Fogg, Murray’s private lawyer, declined to comment.
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Simpson, 50, of Gladstone, Oregon, said in a telephone interview he decided to file the claim “to help me with closure and to vindicate my name.”
“In denying that this happened, Ed continues to victimize me and other survivors,” Simpson said. “This is my last course that God has brought me to — to finally get justice and to finally let people know I wasn’t the one who has been lying. It has been Ed, and it has always has been Ed.”
Simpson’s is the second claim filed against the city seeking monetary damages based on contentions that Murray defamed his accusers while publicly defending himself against their sex-abuse allegations. Delvonn Heckard, who died last week after an apparent overdose, sued Murray and the city last year and ultimately received a $150,000 settlement.
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Simpson’s seven-page claim primarily draws on information obtained through public-records requests and revealed in various Seattle Times news reports since April.
It contends, among other things, that Murray misled the public by claiming Simpson and other accusers were part of a coordinated, anti-gay effort targeting him for his progressive politics, and by citing Simpson’s criminal record to undermine his credibility and “shame and silence Mr. Simpson and reduce him down (in the public eye) to a nothing.”
“The City of Seattle’s coordinated defense and public support of Mayor Murray continued until the day he left office,” the claim says. “The evidence will show that while Murray bemoaned the ‘political attack’ against him, behind the scenes he desperately politicked and used city resources to his fullest advantage to rally support from several City Council members and former mayors.”
The claim specifically calls out Councilmember Sally Bagshaw for behind-the-scenes efforts to rally the council support for Murray in the face of Councilmember M. Lorena González’s call for the mayor’s resignation in July.
The claim lists both Bagshaw and González among potential witnesses, as well as Murray’s former chief of staff and present Deputy Mayor Mike Fong; his former private attorney Robert Sulkin; and his former personal spokesman, Jeff Reading.
In late December, City Attorney Pete Holmes agreed to pay Heckard in exchange for his dropping his defamation suit against the city and a sex-abuse case against Murray.
Had the case gone forward, Murray was prepared to argue any potential legal costs and judgments should fall to the city under laws that indemnify government employees for liability resulting from actions taken during the scope of employment, according to his lawyer.
That and other factors presented thorny issues for the city in its defense of Heckard’s suit, Holmes said after announcing the settlement. He added that an outside law firm’s analysis concluded the case could drag on for months or years, racking up legal costs and negative press for the city with no certain outcome if it went to trial.
The legal analysis — which Holmes declined to publicly disclose, citing attorney-client privilege — focused narrowly on Heckard’s case and does not apply to other claims, Holmes said in December. Any subsequent claims or lawsuits filed against the city would need to be examined on their own merits, he said at the time
Simpson’s claim is similar to the one brought by Heckard, with one major exception: Simpson’s accusations are supported by a state administrative finding that Murray committed the alleged abuse.
Records discovered and released to The Times last year show an Oregon Child Protective Services’ investigator believed Simpson’s allegations that Murray repeatedly sexually abused him. The 1984 finding led Oregon’s child-welfare officials to determine Murray should never again be a foster parent in that state.
The Oregon records also show a Multnomah County prosecutor, Mary Tomlinson, withdrew a criminal case against Murray the same year because of the then-teenage Simpson’s troubled personality — not because she believed Simpson was lying. Tomlinson is also listed on the claim as a potential witness.
Under state law, a claimant seeking damages against a government agency must file a claim notice at least 60 days before pursuing a lawsuit. If the city takes no action during that time, Simpson will sue both the city and Murray, Snow said.
Both Simpson and another man, Lloyd Anderson, met Murray as children in the late 1970s, when they lived at a Portland group home where Murray worked as a counselor. Simpson, who later became Murray’s live-in foster son, contends Murray began raping and molesting him at age 13, and later paid him numerous times for sex throughout his teenage years.
Anderson contends Simpson told him about Murray’s alleged abuse while it was occurring, and he also claims Murray later paid him for sexual favors as a wayward teenager living on the streets of Portland.
In 2007, both men pursued a lawsuit against Murray that fizzled before it was filed. Portland attorney Brian Williams last year recalled he found Simpson believable. He tried to get Simpson’s child-welfare records, but an Oregon archivist erroneously informed his office the records had been purged a decade earlier, according to a letter he sent to Simpson.
Williams ultimately dropped Simpson’s case after concluding Oregon’s statute of limitations for filing such a sex-abuse lawsuit had lapsed.