Mayor outlines protections for participation

Interviews scheduled for mayor, city administrator

Brian Coddington, Communications Director, 509.625.6740

Monday, April 18, 2016 at 3:09 p.m.

Spokane Mayor David Condon today outlined protections to ensure a safe environment for employees to participate in the third-party investigation into a variety of personnel matters while renewing his call for employees to meet with the investigator.

City employees concerned about potential retaliation for participation in interviews being conducted by a former federal prosecutor investigating the handling of recent personnel matters have been encouraged to seek whistleblower protection. The city is also working with the City’s labor groups to launch a toll-free hotline number for employees to report concerns about mistreatment in the workplace.

“Intense attention on the investigation and recent statements about the status of employee participation has renewed fears among employees about retaliation,” Condon said. “These steps are necessary to reassure employees that they have a safe environment in which to speak to the investigator.”

In a Feb. 24 letter co-signed by Condon and City Council President Ben Stuckart, both pledged to employees that, “you will not be retaliated against for participating or not participating in this investigation.”

Additional interviews are scheduled this month and any records requested by the investigator will continue to be released to her. The hotline will be managed by a third-party vendor. Establishing the employee hotline is an outcome of both the recent personnel matters and feedback for the “Gender and Racial Equity at the City of Spokane” report that indicated unease among employees about voicing concerns of workplace mistreatment.

“I encourage city employees to cooperate fully with the investigation, and City Administrator Theresa Sanders and I are leading by example,” Condon said. Both are scheduled to be interviewed by the investigator later this month.

Recent public discussion has indicated that fear of retaliation is driving reluctance among employees to be interviewed by the investigator. Whistleblower protection guaranteed by city and state law provides protections against retaliation that other options, such as Garrity v. New Jersey, which include termination as a possible penalty, do not, Condon said.

The Spokane Municipal Code whistleblower section reads in part: “It is the policy of the City of Spokane to encourage employees to report information concerning any alleged improper action by the City’s officers or employees. It is further the policy of the City to prevent retaliation against any employee who in good faith reports such allegedly improper action.”

The code goes on to say: “No City official or employee may take retaliatory action against a City employee because the employee provided information in good faith in accordance with the provisions of this subsection that an improper governmental action occurred.”