by Carolyn Bick
The Emerald’s Watchdragon reporting seeks to increase accountability within our city’s institutions through in-depth investigative journalism.
A year ago today, the Emerald published its first story on a whistleblower complaint filed against the Office of Inspector General (OIG). That complaint contained serious allegations — including warnings from OIG leadership to staff to avoid criticizing the OPA in writing — not only against Inspector General Lisa Judge but also against now-former Deputy Inspector General Amy Tsai and now-former Office of Police Accountability (OPA) Dir. Andrew Myerberg.
While the Seattle City Council (SCC) appears to be the entity responsible for initiating an investigation into the many allegations within the complaint, it has so far almost completely avoided addressing it. The Emerald wrote a detailed article about the SCC’s role in all of this, which readers can find within this short roundup.
The Emerald has compiled a year-on retrospective — not only for those readers who may have missed these first articles but also to continue to shine a light on the fact that City leadership has taken no action on this complaint. The following is a roundup of articles stemming from the whistleblower complaint, including the original article about the complaint itself. Included here also are tidbits of new information that the Emerald has gathered and which it will be incorporating into forthcoming pieces.
Original article regarding the whistleblower complaint:
Former OPA Dir. Andrew Myerberg under investigation for releasing private medical information:
OIG Auditor certified OPA cases without, in some cases, opening or reviewing a single document:
The Emerald has discovered that this auditor, Anthony Finnell, has since resigned. The Emerald would like to note that Finnell resigned the same month investigative firm OIR Group handed in its report regarding his performance and other matters to the OIG. Finnell has since been appointed to an advisory committee for Lassen Peak, a local tech startup in Bellevue involved with concealed weapons detection that it plans to market to police.
The Emerald will also be writing a comprehensive piece on the OIR Group report, which itself deserves examination, particularly in light of the information contained in the whistleblower complaint. A brief breakdown can be found in this Twitter thread. Readers should be aware that the breakdown does not include analysis.
Also notable is the fact that the OIG has maintained almost complete silence about this report, despite it not only being funded by taxpayers — and therefore public information. The Emerald would like to note that the OIR Group report was completed on June 17. In the July 26 Public Safety and Human Services (PSHS) Committee meeting, OIG Deputy Inspector General Miroslava Meza talked briefly about “a study” regarding the OIG’s work auditing the OPA as well as its processes for doing so. In that meeting, Meza said that the OIG did not have the report from that study yet.
It is unclear whether this report is the same report by OIR Group, but two days after the PSHS meeting, the OIG publicly released the OIR Group report on its News page, without any sort of announcement regarding the matter. Meza also mentioned but did not go into detail about this report in OIG’s department update to the Community Police Commission on Aug. 3. This report also specifically concerns OIG processes in auditing the OPA.
Though the report was released in June, OIG has made no announcement to the public regarding its conclusions or its availability for public review; aside from Miroslava’s appearance at the PSHS meeting in July and her appearance the CPC meeting a week later in August, OIG doesn’t appear to have publicly addressed the report in any way.
The OPA investigation into police actions at the 2020 Labor Day protest is riddled with missing and incorrect information:
Sept. 27, 2021 — Glaring Discrepancies in OPA Report on Labor Day 2020 Protest
In autumn 2021, the Emerald arranged with SCC’s Dir. of Communication Dana Robinson-Slote to speak with SCC member Teresa Mosqueda.
Robinson-Slote originally reached out to the Emerald on Sept. 27 to ask whether it would be writing about the budget. In its reply to Robinson-Slote, the Emerald specifically wrote: “Thank you for reaching out. While I will not be writing about the budget, I would certainly be interested in seeing if the councilmember has any reaction to today’s story” — the first story listed in this section — “about the OPA basing its conclusions and officer discipline recommendations on what appears to be a factually incorrect narrative of the events at last year’s Labour Day protest outside SPOG, despite apparently ample evidence that contradicts this narrative. Would she like to talk with me about that on Wednesday morning?”
Robinson-Slote replied, “I can’t quite swing this tomorrow morning but later in the week, perhaps? She’s chairing most meetings which means she [sic] perpetually crunched for time. So sorry!”
Eventually, the Emerald arranged to speak with Mosqueda on Oct. 4 from 12 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. However, when Mosqueda called, she appeared to be under the impression that the Emerald wanted to talk about the budget. She told the Emerald to send along the story and promised to speak about the issue when she had more information. The Emerald sent the story to Mosqueda at 12:13 p.m. in the following email:
“Thank you so much again for being willing to talk with me and your flexibility! Here is the article: https://southseattleemerald.com/2021/09/27/glaring-discrepancies-in-opa-report-on-labor-day-2020-protest/
“Given your stance and your work to center yourself in the ongoing public discussion about police accountability and its partner, oversight, I thought you might have some thoughts on this, particularly since the OPA’s determinations are based on an apparently false narrative, and an investigation can be closed and no more work can be done on it, but the OPA can leave the case itself open for an indefinite period of time, since there is no timeline for releasing a Closed Case Summary. All of this is discussed in the article in more detail.
“Please let me know when you’d be free for an interview, and thank you again,
But instead of Mosqueda responding, her aide, Faride Cuevas, sent this short note: “I apologize for the delay, CM Mosqueda has been in back to back meetings and will not be able to accommodate your request.”
The Emerald wrote back, “Hi, Faride,
“No problem. She indicated to me that she would be able to talk with me about this a different day, and I am certain that folks would like to hear from her, since she has centered herself in the ongoing discussion around police accountability. What is her schedule like for the next week or so?”
Cuevas responded, “Her next availability is [sic] until November 3rd and we are trying to only focus on budget requests for the few slots she has open. I apologize, maybe another member may want to do the interview.”
The Emerald asked whether it could schedule an interview for Nov. 3. Despite already saying that Mosqueda had a Nov. 3 availability, Cuevas put the Emerald off even further and framed Mosqueda’s verbal promise to talk with the Emerald as no longer a definite: “Unfortunately right now we are only focusing on budget requests. can you please send us an email after November 22nd to see if CM Mosqueda would like to take this request.”
On Dec. 1, the Emerald sent this message to Mosqueda, Cuevas, and Robinson-Slote: “Hi, Councilmember Mosqueda,
“I hope you are doing well. This is Carolyn Bick from the South Seattle Emerald.
“I am reaching out to you again to see if you have any comments about the issues surrounding OPA complaint 2020OPA-0583, or the ethics complaint filed in August against the OIG. I’d love to talk with you about these related issues, and your legislative aide said that I should reach out to you after Nov. 22 to speak with you about things unrelated to the budget.
“Please let me know, and thank you,
Robinson-Slote responded and said that she would also ask other councilmembers. However, even though the Emerald followed up on Dec. 3, it never heard from any of the councilmembers, including Mosqueda or Robinson-Slote.
Federal Monitor Antonio Oftelie dismissed the whistleblower complaint without reading it, and accused the Emerald of only pursuing the story for views and clicks:
The Seattle City Council refuses to comprehensively investigate the whistleblower complaint:
The Emerald will keep digging into the issues arising from this complaint, as well as related issues it has since discovered, and asks that readers stay tuned.
📸 Featured Image: Collage assembled from images used in articles linked within this article, including screenshots from Community Police Commission Meetings, SPD body-worn video, and video shot by Chris Rojas and used with permission.
Before you move on to the next story … Please consider that the article you just read was made possible by the generous financial support of donors and sponsors. The Emerald is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet with the mission of offering a wider lens of our region’s most diverse, least affluent, and woefully under-reported communities. Please consider making a one-time gift or, better yet, joining our Rainmaker Family by becoming a monthly donor. Your support will help provide fair pay for our journalists and enable them to continue writing the important stories that offer relevant news, information, and analysis. Support the Emerald!