The City of Seattle is paying up to $65,000, at a rate of $325 per hour, to a private investigator to track down a whistleblower who leaked a confidential document to The Stranger that exposed the city's negotiations with the police union to public scrutiny.
The investigator is Patty Eakes of the firm Calfo, Eakes and Ostrovsky, according to a copy of the contract obtained through a public records request. Her firm boasts of successfully defending accused white-collar criminal defendants, including State Auditor Troy Kelley, against corruption charges.
(The hourly rate is $85 more than what the city is paying a private company to assist it in kicking homeless people out from where they're sleeping.)
In an August 4 email, Mayor Ed Murray and City Council Member Tim Burgess asked Ethics and Elections Commission director Wayne Barnett to track down the whistleblower, alleging a violation of city's ethics code. Barnett thanked them, then promised a "thorough investigation" and to take "appropriate measures if we are able to identify the source."
Barnett has designated about 10 percent of his commission's total annual budget for the investigation.
The document we published, way back in June, was a summary of the city's offer to the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG). The vast majority of Seattle police officers rejected the contract—which fell short in key ways of benchmarks set this month by the federal judge overseeing Department of Justice-mandated reforms.
The current contract imposes onerous limits on the ways the city can hold its rank and file cops accountable for misconduct; the new contract would have relaxed some of those limits, without wholly doing away with them. Samuel Sinyangwe, the New York-based co-founder of the Black Lives Matter group Campaign Zero, which analyzes police contracts, said the contract still contains "many provisions that undermine accountability and are simply not present in many cities' contracts."
Sinyangwe called contract offer "mediocre at best," from an accountability perspective.
It's not clear how Eakes will go about the investigation. City Attorney Pete Holmes suggested in a July statement that he and employees would submit to questioning in the inquiry under threat of perjury. Nor is there any proposed end date for the investigation. Eakes did not respond to a request for comment.
As we've reported before, there is "near-consensus" among the the Department of Justice, Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), OPA Review Board, OPA Auditor, and the Community Police Commission that labor negotiations with the police guild should not be kept secret to begin with.