A Seattle police lieutenant has retired rather than face firing after an internal investigation found she directed a city contractor to remove trash from her home and then lied about it, according to findings released Friday by the Office of Police Accountability (OPA).
Detective Patrick Michaud, a department spokesman, confirmed that former Lt. Sina Ebinger, a 21-year department veteran, “no longer works for the department.”
Ebinger was the department’s lead and liaison with the city’s Navigation Team, which has been utilized to remove homeless encampments and find resources for those displaced. According to OPA findings issued Friday, Ebinger in February asked a friend in another agency to have Cascadia Cleaning and Removal, a city contractor working with the Navigation Team, remove some large trash items from in front of her home located in the department’s southwest precinct.
The incident was first reported by the PubliCola news site.
According to the OPA investigation, the friend, an area coordinator at the city Human Services Department, told the Cascadia employees not to photograph the items, which was outside normal protocol.
One of the Cascadia workers mentioned the pickup to another police officer, who used the internet to discover that the address belonged to Ebinger. That officer told an acting sergeant, and the two of them talked to Ebinger, who acknowledged she had asked for the favor, but only after she had contacted Seattle Public Utilities twice for a large-trash pickup without results, the OPA investigation said.
Ebinger said she had not asked that the cleanup crew be dispatched specifically to her house, but that they make the pickup only if they were in the area. She acknowledged she had “jumped the line,” the investigation said, and apologized for putting the sergeant and other officer in an awkward position.
Later, she told the Navigation Team director that the Cascadia workers had been in the area, according to the OPA’s findings.
However, the OPA investigation, which included interviews with several officers, Human Services officials and the Cascadia contractor and workers, showed that the crew had been specifically dispatched to Ebinger’s home.
A check with Public Utilities showed no recent records of Ebinger having tried to contact the agency for trash pickup, the investigation said.
OPA Director Andrew Myerberg said there were three sustained findings in the investigation: that Ebinger was dishonest, that she used her position as a police officer for personal gain, and that she acted unprofessionally. An investigation into a fourth allegation — involving the deletion of texts and emails from her city’s cellphone, in violation of document retention policies — was inconclusive, Myerberg found. The recommended discipline was termination, however Ebinger retired beforehand, said Detective Michaud.
A message seeking comment from a cellphone registered to Ebinger was not returned.
“As a senior SPD supervisor, [Ebinger] knew or should have known that she was not allowed to access city services intended to clean up homeless encampments,” Myerberg wrote. “OPA finds that [Ebinger] behaved unprofessionally when she misappropriated City resources and took advantage of a personal friends which the Area Coordinator to do so.”
While Myerberg notes that Ebinger claims she did not at first realize what she had done was wrong, “the record suggests that, at minimum, both she and the area coordinator were concerned with the appearance it would create.”