SEATTLE, WA – After a two-month inquiry, an outside investigator hired by the city of Seattle has been unable to determine who leaked confidential documents to The Stranger newspaper detailing labor negotiations with the Seattle police guild.
The finding, at a cost of roughly $65,000, was disclosed in a letter posted Tuesday on the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission website.
Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess asked for the investigation Aug. 4, after The Stranger in June published 14 pages of documents labeled “Draft/Confidential Labor Policy/Do Not Distribute” during voting by the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) on a proposed four-year contract.
In July, the contract was soundly defeated by the SPOG membership, 823 to 156, a result Murray partly blamed on the leak of the document.
The tentative contract, covering officers and sergeants, included a mix of wage hikes and reform measures sought by the city, the leaked documents showed, at a time the Seattle Police Department is carrying out federally mandated changes to address excessive force and biased policing.
In the letter, signed by Wayne Barnett, the commission’s executive director, Barnett wrote that the 14 pages were among those included as an attachment on June 13 email sent to more than 30 city officials and employees.
Five went to City Council members, with access to their staff, according to the letter, and a review of emails showed the document was forwarded to one outside attorney and three other city employees.
In all, about 50 city officials, employees and agents had electronic access to the disclosed documents, the letter added.
A search of thousands of city emails and interviews of council members and other city employees, including staff in the mayor’s office, failed to turn up evidence pointing to the source of the disclosure and only produced an “expanding list of suspects,” according to the letter.
“After two months, we are no closer to discovering the source of the disclosure than we were at the outset,” Barnett wrote in closing the investigation pending new information.
Barnett encouraged city officials to work with the city auditor to develop best practices for safeguarding confidential information in the future, writing that providing some 50 people with electronic access to confidential documents carried an “extremely high risk” of an unauthorized disclosure.
The investigation was carried out by Seattle attorney Patty Eakes, whose bill is expected to be about $65,000, Barnett said.
Barnett’s letter was posted on the commission’s Wednesday agenda for informational purposes.
From The Seattle Times