Rejecting a challenge from the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG), a hearing examiner for the Public Employment Relations Commission has upheld the City Attorney’s authority to move the legal defense of police officers from an outside law firm that had an exclusive contract with the City for several decades.
Ruling on an unfair labor practice complaint that SPOG filed in June 2011, the examiner said City Attorney Pete Holmes “did not refuse to bargain and did not violate RCW 41.56.140(4) when [he] used in-house counsel for legal work that had been done by the outside law firm of Stafford Frey Cooper.”
“I am gratified that the PERC examiner upheld my decision to bring much of the police action work in-house,” Holmes said. “The driving force behind the change was, and remains, the City’s austere budget climate. The City is now playing a much more supportive role in policy – by having a closer working relationship with the individual officers and the department.”
As the ruling recounts, Holmes pledged to end the no-bid contract during his campaign for the office in 2009. When he terminated the arrangement in 2010, he explained he would bring about 75 percent of the police action work in-house. Since then, he has hired three assistant City attorneys to defend the officers in a wide range of charges, including wrongful arrest and death, excessive use of force, police misconduct and violations of federal civil rights.