“Authentic” Harrell Doubles Down, Public Safety Director Myerberg Reassigned, Baseless Complaint Claims PubliCola Engaged in Pro-Cop “Quid Pro Quo”

1. Mayor Bruce Harrell doubled down yesterday on comments he made during a Seattle Police Department roll call that were subsequently leaked to Jason Rantz, a host at the conservative station KTTH, telling reporters he stood by “whatever people said I said.” According to quotes from the meeting, Harrell blamed at “inexperienced” city council members, the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, and service providers for the “mess” the city has become—calling out the KCRHA, in particular, for “working against” Harrell by publicly opposing encampment sweeps.

“I’ve been in the city my entire life. And there’s one thing about me, is I am authentic,” Harrell said. Gesturing toward his wife, Joanne, who was standing behind him, he continued, “[I’ve] been with my best friend and wife, we’ve known each other for close to four decades. By the way, she’s a tough critic. But she’s seen me say the same things over and over and over again. So it’s time to stop playing small ball. Let’s play big ball. Let’s attack racism. Let’s attack police reform. Let’s revitalize our downtown. That’s big ball.”

Harrell declined to say whether he would actually propose defunding the regional homelessness authority, which receives the bulk of its funding, about $70 million, from the city through its annual budget process. “We’ll present our budget in a few weeks, but you will see our clear recognition of a lot of the great work they are doing,” Harrell said. “You will see continued support. What I owe to the leaders in RHA is my expectations. And I think they share my concern that we have to get this work done. … I’m still very optimistic. I’m very optimistic. But I’m not going to look at any of the work we’re doing in the city through rose-colored glasses.”

Harrell has been publicly and privately critical of the KCRHA and its director, Marc Dones—complaining publicly, for example, about the agency’s request for city and county funding that would nearly double its existing budget to fund a slew of new projects. Privately, Harrell has reportedly questioned the need for the authority, which still lacks meaningful buy-in from suburban cities and is entirely funded by Seattle and King County.

On Wednesday, Harrell said removing Myerberg from his position was just part of a six-month evaluation that involved “moving people around,” but declined to say more about what Myerberg will do in his new role. “He’s still part of our strong part of our administration and literally sits 40 feet from my desk. We’re looking forward to our continuing partnership,” Harrell said.

2. Harrell’s erstwhile director of public safety, former Office of Police Accountability director Andrew Myerberg, has been reassigned to a vaguely defined new position—”director of special projects”—where he will reportedly head up efforts to get the city out from under a consent decree between the US Department of Justice and the Seattle Police Department.

Harrell has reportedly criticized Myerberg for his lack of connection to communities impacted by police policy, such as the ill-advised decision (supported by Harrell’s other chief public safety advisor, strategic initiatives director Tim Burgess) to crack down on “disorderly conduct,” including music, smoking, and shouting, at Third Avenue and Pine St. downtown.

On Wednesday, Harrell said removing Myerberg from his position was just part of a six-month evaluation that involved “moving people around,” but declined to say more about what Myerberg will do in his new role. “He’s still part of our strong part of our administration and literally sits 40 feet from my desk. We’re looking forward to our continuing partnership,” Harrell said.

Asked what qualities he’s looking for in Myerberg’s replacement, Harrell said, “We want a person who understands constitutional policing, seven minute response times, [and is] willing to do the hard research on what’s working in other cities, issues dealing with gun regulations, just a good director of public safety.”

3. Local police accountability gadfly Howard Gale has filed a formal complaint with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission alleging a “quid pro quo” conspiracy between me (Erica Barnett) and City Councilmember Lisa Herbold and/or the city’s Office of the Inspector General, which reviews police misconduct investigations to publish information flattering to the OIG and Herbold and, by extension, the Seattle Police Department.

The “whistleblower complaint” asserts that either Herbold or someone at the Office of Inspector General leaked a copy of a report to me, and only me, in advance, in exchange for my agreement to provide flattering coverage. My straightforward piece describing the contents of the external report, which included recommendations for avoiding improper certification of investigations into police misconduct, is here.

“I believe this is a clear ethical violation because it was done with the intent to avoid negative coverage for both the OIG and CM Herbold, and done for professional mutual benefit (quid pro quo),” the complaint says.

The only evidence for this utterly baseless claim is that Gale contacted nine unidentified “journalists” and “none can find any notice of the independent audit being released/available.”

The reality, as it often is with conspiracy theories, is much more mundane. The OIG released an embargoed copy of the report to a list of reporters, including me, on the afternoon of July 27, one day before the office released the report publicly.

An embargo is an agreement between journalists and a person or entity releasing information, such as a government agency or advocacy group, that journalists will get the information in advance in exchange for agreeing not to publish it until a certain time; such agreements are extremely common and allow journalists to absorb the information (for example, details in a technical briefing or lawsuit), ask clarifying questions, and write their stories before something gets released publicly. I may have been the only one who wrote about the report when the embargo lifted, but lack of coverage is not evidence of a conspiracy.

3 thoughts on ““Authentic” Harrell Doubles Down, Public Safety Director Myerberg Reassigned, Baseless Complaint Claims PubliCola Engaged in Pro-Cop “Quid Pro Quo””

  1. Erica reasserts her empty defense against my well researched and sourced finding that she has consistently ignored and downplayed the failures of our police accountability system (not the SPD), due to her relationship with Lisa Herbold, see: https://hjgale.tumblr.com/post/692127211459952640/what-the-recent-independent-audit-of-seattles .

    Unable to defend with facts she deploys the classic triad of insult, straw man argument, and distract.

    Insult: Referring to me as a “gadfly” and a conspiracy theorist, whereas she, of course, is a critic and pundit. The most unprincipled line of defense is to label a critic — with a stellar reputation for calling out the missteps and malfeasance of Seattle’s police accountability system for the last eight years — a gadfly.

    Straw man: Grossly misrepresenting my claims, starting with the headline “Claims PubliCola Engaged in Pro-Cop ‘Quid Pro Quo'” and with statements that I claim she is publishing “information flattering to the OIG and Herbold and, by extension, the Seattle Police Department.” All my claims specifically cite PubliCola’s reporting on Seattle’s police accountability structures (CPC, OIG, and OPA) and the critical role played by CM Herbold in failing to hold those structures accountable. Erica may be a great critic of SPD, but that is decidedly not at all what I have written about.

    A quid pro quo is not a conspiracy and is quite common in journalism, especially when it comes to policing in Seattle: a journalist will hold some bad press back in exchange for access to police and city officials. Many local journalists have admitted this to me, including those with PubliCola.

    No conspiracy here, just a friendship that has undermined journalism. This is not a theoretical debate: review the evidence I provide of PubliCola consistently turning a blind eye or underplaying gross failures and corruption within our police accountability system (again, not the SPD).

    Distract: The mysterious press release with “embargo” on it that no one else has seen. Why has nobody seen it? How do you know it was sent to other journalists? If an embargo is designed so you can “ask clarifying questions” why did you fail to seek comment from any of the whistleblowers at the center of the story? Why would there be an embargo on something like this? Can you provide similar examples? Since the City/OIG/Council had zero intention of mentioning this audit, the only way the public would know of it would be if someone wrote about it, making an embargo pointless.

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