Eight days after Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner publicly shared confidential details from an arbitration ruling over whether the city should reinstate Ron Frashour—the cop fired for killing Aaron Campbell—the city attorney's office sent a terse letter accusing the PPA of "unauthorized disclosures" violating a federal court order and other agreements meant to keep those details under wraps.
The 22-page letter (PDF) by City Attorney James Van Dyke, obtained by the Mercury in a public records request, threatens legal action if necessary. It was sent to the PPA on June 13, a week after the Mercury and the Oregonian obtained transcripts of testimony given by Lieutenant Robert King and a day after the O obtained transcripts of testimony given by Police Chief Mike Reese.
It may be, of course, that the federal court protective order and the separate agreement between PPA and the City may need to be modified. However, at this point they have not been modified. As a result, violations of the federal court order and the agreement PPA executed must cease immediately. If PPA intends further unauthorized disclosures, please contact my office so we can set up a hearing before the federal court and/or the arbitrator.
The backdrop of all this is the city and the PPA's current battle before the Oregon Employment Relations Board over Mayor Sam Adams' refusal to follow the arbitrator's order to reinstate Frashour. Adams is arguing that reinstating Frashour for an "egregious" use of force (PDF) would violate public policy. The union has filed an unfair labor practices complaint, arguing that the arbitrator didn't just give Frashour his job back but also cleared him of any misconduct (PDF). By talking about the arbitration in detail, at a time when the city has been unwilling, the PPA has been able to directly seize control of the narrative.
Also interesting in the letter? A sense of what's (not been) happening with grievances filed for the other three officers disciplined in the Campbell shooting: Sergeants Liani Reyna and John Birkinbine, and Officer Ryan Lewton, all of whom were given 80-hour unpaid suspensions.
Turns out there's a legal dispute over how to handle the three grievances. The PPA technically didn't push for arbitration within the limits spelled out by law, and when the city refused to process them anyway, the PPA asked the ERB to weigh in. That appeal is still pending, meaning it could yet be months before the other three cops' fates are known.
But the city's letter spends much of its ink addressing the transcript leaks and Turner's article, which referenced not only transcripts but also training review documents that had been submitted to the arbitrator.
The city argues that the training memos are bound by a judge's order protecting materials in a (still technically unsettled) civil lawsuit filed by Campbell's family and a separate agreement between the city and the PPA not to share arbitration materials with outside parties. The city also argues that city/PPA agreement, plus an order by arbitrator Jane Wilkinson, also applies to the release of the transcripts themselves.
The PPA, according to the city's letter, has told the city it doesn't believe the transcripts are bound by the federal order and ought to be free for release. The PPA has declined to comment on the transcripts and has not taken responsibility for sharing them.
On June 7, 2012, Stephanie Harper of my office spoke with you regarding the breach of the confidentiality agreements and the orders by PPA. I understand you told her the transcript of the arbitration proceeding was not subject to any agreement regarding confidentiality. Your own email, however, shows you contended opposite to the arbitrator.
Meanwhile, Portland Copwatch's Dan Handelman noticed something peculiar in the Reese transcripts posted by the O on June 12: The paper never fully cleaned them up. The info field shows an author named "Will" (presumably for union counsel Will Aitchison) and a file creation date of May 27, more than a week before Turner's post went out.
That doesn't prove that Aitchison actually sent them, but it's an interesting, dare I say tantalizing, clue left surprisingly uncovered by the city's paper of record. Van Dyke's letter was sent before Handelman found that.
Beyond the violations, however, you should be aware that PPA's credibility has been severely damaged by these actions. I understand your client and mine have a difference of opinion in regard to the Frashour disciplinary proceedings and our clients may have disputes in the future. In order to have any kind of productive relationship, the City must be able to trust PPA to live up to its promises and not to selectively release portions of transcripts while this matter remains pending before ERB and the federal court. Based on the facts above, it appears PPA's promises are not credible. In addition, I am hopeful attorneys for PPA neither participated in these disclosures nor were aware of them before their release, as that would be a serious matter as well.
The federal Department of Justice has also asked for the arbitration transcripts, and Van Dyke tells the Mercury his office agreed today to modify the federal court order to allow the feds to get a look at them.
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