As far as the Yakima City Council is concerned, allegations of mismanagement brought by the police union against the city manager are now closed.
But the union’s leader disagrees.
The council voted 6-1 at a June 4 meeting to dismiss 142 pages of documentation that Yakima Police Patrolman’s Association Chairman Ira Cavin submitted as evidence that City Manager Cliff Moore had mismanaged the department and fostered an environment of distrust, hostility and lack of transparency.
Mayor Kathy Coffey updated members of the public at the start of the meeting, noting that council members had the opportunity to review the additional information presented and follow up with the police union as they saw fit. The council also had convened in executive session to collaboratively discuss the additional documentation.
The council then voted to close the matter, with no discussion except for Councilwoman Kay Funk, who was the dissenting vote.
“I don’t consider the matter closed,” Funk said. “Procedurally it might be closed, but I think it will continue to be a problem.”
The Yakima Herald-Republic received a copy of a May 9 letter that the police union sent to the City Council members and a May 30 response from Moore, as well as supplemental documentation from city staff and the police union.
The police union’s main concerns with Moore’s April 2 response related to the police chief search and selection, officer training and treatment, and what Cavin perceives as a continued lack of transparency by Moore.
Moore’s letter shows he felt the police union had acted with dishonesty and unprofessionalism from the start, and in a way that tarnished the reputations of city staff and police officers while presenting misleading and false information as fact.
Moore, following the June 4 City Council meeting, said only that he appreciated the council’s support.
Cavin, accompanied by about a dozen police officers, publicly announced a vote of no confidence in Moore at a March 19 City Council meeting during the public comment session. He said the union was diverting from normal negotiating procedure in doing so because Moore had fostered an environment of distrust.
The council directed Moore to respond to the allegations contained in a five-page union letter by April 2, which he did in a seven-page letter he provided to council members prior to their 6-1 vote April 2 to close the issue and to the public after the meeting had adjourned. Funk again was the dissenting vote.
Council members directed the police union to contact them with any additional information. On May 9, Cavin sent another letter to City Council members, along with 142 pages of documents.
Moore requested that Debbie Korevaar, the civil service chief examiner, review and respond to allegations the union raised about other city staff in the allegations, which she did in a May 23 memo to the council.
He responded to the other concerns in a six-page letter May 30, claiming the police union had presented no new evidence and that the union executive board, whom he said led the “unfounded attack” against him, had failed to live up to the police officer oath to act honestly and to recognize the badge as a “symbol of public faith.”
Moore said the union’s assertions “were nothing more than innuendo and outright falsehoods” and that the union owed an apology to him, the City Council and the city staff who had been drawn into the “quagmire” of the allegations.
“They have created unnecessary and unwarranted tension amongst staff, consternation in the community and they have sullied their own reputations and perhaps those of the men and women they were elected to serve,” Moore wrote.
The 142 pages of evidence Cavin presented to council members included copies of a sign-in sheet for officers who had attended Moore’s talks with officers, a written statement from a department sergeant who wrote Moore did not seem receptive to his concerns, excerpts from city budgets, written statements of officers who were treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and correspondence with the Utah facility that treated them.
The documentation also included resignation letters from two officers who said they left the department due to an “untenable” situation and an unhealthy environment involving “the direction senior city leadership is taking our department,” and notes from former Police Chief Dominic Rizzi that Moore was interfering with his ability to lead the police department.
Moore pointed to his own evidence in response. He noted that the City Council had received support letters from 18 city staff and department heads, totaling 30 pages, refuting that he “fostered a culture of distrust, hostility and lack of transparency” and instead showed him to be a respectful, ethical and capable leader who served with integrity.
He also pointed to a petition signed by 163 city staff who said he was a “fair, collaborative and dedicated public servant” who consistently acted in good faith.
Finally, he referenced an eight-page memo from Korevaar discrediting several of the union’s allegations.
Police chief issues
The May 9 letter repeats that Moore lied to officers about the cost of the police chief search, quoting officers $20,000 when the actual cost was closer to $34,000, that internal command staff believed they would not be considered for the police chief role, and that the union did not submit questions for consideration in a police chief candidate interview panel because they found out who the candidates were the day before the scheduled interviews.
Cavin also said the city thwarted his efforts to directly contact the investigator hired to do the final background check on the city’s selected candidate, Denver Police Lt. Matthew Murray, saying he was told to submit the information directly to the city’s human resources department instead.
Moore, in his May 30 letter, said he did provide an accurate estimate of the cost of the police chief search in December, prior to reviewing proposals. Moore acknowledged the final amount was $34,497, including a $27,500 contract, $5,500 for consultant expenses, and $1,500 for a police department employee survey of what they wanted in a new police chief.
That amount represents 0.05 percent of the general fund budget, which the union is not responsible for managing, Moore said.
Moore also voiced concerns about the police union’s timing in bringing forth their allegations, two days before scheduled interviews with police chief candidates, concluding the union’s allegations ultimately were an attempt to discredit the search process because he did not appoint the person the union wanted as chief.
“Having failed to thwart the search process for a new chief, the union is now retaliating out of spite,” Moore wrote.
Regarding the other allegations, Moore deferred to the May 23 Korevaar memo. Korevaar noted in her response that while she had not been privy to conversations that Moore had with police command staff about the police chief search, she was present at discussions when Moore decided not to require a bachelor’s degree for the position, as few existing command staff had received a college degree. Korevaar concluded that action showed Moore “wanted an avenue for any likely candidate within YPD to apply and be considered.”
Korevaar said it was routine procedure for the names of candidates to be released the day prior to scheduled panel interviews, which aim to ask a standard set of questions to all candidates to keep the interviewing process fair. Korevaar also said there was no reason for the investigator to directly contact the police union regarding the final background check into Murray, who started May 1.
“They are not part of his
background. They have not worked with Chief Murray, nor had any interactions with him prior to the hiring process,” Korevaar noted.
The police union letter states that Moore’s letter did not address budget shifts that directly contributed to a $786,000 shortfall in the approved 2019 budget that led to cuts in general fund programs. Cavin said that the department’s overtime budget since has been reduced and that Moore directed command staff to identify areas for additional cuts.
Moore said in response that the city’s policy in the past for balancing budgets had been to overestimate revenues and dip into the reserve for deficits, which he called “bad policy.” He said the 2019 budget used conservative estimates. But even then, the amount and percent of general fund allocations for the police department increased.
In 2018, the police department received $29.3 million — about 43 percent of the general fund. In 2019, that amount grew to
$30.2 million — about 45 percent of the general fund.
Moore said that his April 2 response addressed that “since the 2019 budget was adopted, there have been no further reductions to YPD’s expenditure authority.”
Regarding post-traumatic stress claims and treatment, Cavin said in his May 9 letter that several officers had received treatment at an unnamed facility that specializes in first-responder issues but that Moore attempted to discredit, allegedly saying its operations were “unethical” and canceling travel when the facility’s staff invited the chief of police and a member of the command staff to evaluate its programs.
Cavin said the result was that officers seeking treatment found the process “hostile and difficult.”
In a letter submitted as documentation, a police officer writes about being involved in a high-speed chase in 2017 in which the suspect was shot and killed — a situation that put the officer in “a dark place.” The officer chose to voluntarily check into the Deer Hollow Recovery and Wellness center in Draper, Utah, where the officer remained for 30 days. The officer wrote, “Treatment saved my life and career.”
But after returning home, the officer had to go through city-ordered claims interviews that resulted in reliving the experience and setbacks in recovery. The officer then received a letter saying the city provider had denied the claim, but within the same month also received a letter from the State of Washington, Department of Labor and Industries, saying that the claim was allowed and that the officer was entitled to receive medical treatment and benefits, according to the officer’s document.
The officer had 400 hours of personal time restored to his personal accounts but the $62,000 bill at Deer Hollow remained unpaid as of April 2019.
Moore deferred to his April 2 response, in which he said allegations that he denied worker compensation claims for post-traumatic stress disorder were “absolutely untrue.”
He noted that the city’s human resource department noted a claim had been submitted through the city’s employee medical benefits plan rather than to L&I, the agency that handled worker’s compensation claims.
“As the city manager, I have no authority to review, approve or deny worker’s compensation claims nor have I ever attempted to intercede for or against any city employee making such a claim,” Moore wrote April 2.
Cavin said in the May 9 letter that Moore had filtered information presented to the City Council when he selected only certain slides from a police department presentation on budgets and crime data.
Moore said he reviewed the presentation and found some of the data was inaccurate. He said he presented only the accurate slides to the City Council during budget sessions.
The union letter also alleges that Moore allows dishonesty among staff he favors, claiming Moore hired an internal employee to do an independent investigation of a series of events surrounding the promotion of several employees questioned by veteran police officers.
After the investigator found no misconduct, three of the four veteran officers resigned because of their frustration with the situation — a collective loss to the department of 60 years experience, Cavin said.
Moore deferred to Korevaar’s memo. Korevaar said the investigation process into alleged dishonesty by the Police Services staff required a formal civil service appeal, a second “interactive process” with the city manager, an objective investigation, and an additional investigation by city-hired investigator Russ Perisho.
All three independent investigations concluded there had been no misconduct, Korevaar said.
“The fact that we continue to counter unfounded allegations with concrete information is causing these new allegations,” Korevaar wrote. “At best, they (the union) appear to be re-
articulating unfounded ‘gossip’ and false allegations; at worst, they appear to be taking retaliatory actions against individuals who simply disagree with their perceptions of situations not within their purview.”
Moore concluded his May 30 letter saying, “I believe this matter is now, finally, resolved.”
Cavin said in a June email that he does not consider the matter closed.
“We are in the process of considering our next course of action,” Cavin said.
Moore was recently named as one of four finalists for a city administrator position with the city of Flagstaff, Ariz.