An investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and other issues within the Selah Police Department has been completed.

But city officials are holding on to the report, which is at the heart of former City Administrator Don Wayman’s allegation that he was fired because he was a whistleblower.

The city is waiting to see if the officers named in the report, or their union, will sue to block the report’s release. Officials are citing a provision in the state’s Public Records Act that allows third parties to challenge the release of documents in which they are named.

It’s a practice one open-government advocate called “worrisome.”

“Records requesters themselves run the risk of being sued by a third party who wants to keep the information secret,” said George Erb, secretary of the Washington Coalition for Open Government. “This is just another obstacle for citizens and the press who use the Public Records Act to find out what their public officials are doing.

“We have enough obstacles to government transparency already.”

He said it is especially troubling when the records being challenged involve matters of public interest — such as allegations of police misconduct at a time when there’s a national debate over police accountability.

Mayor Sherry Raymond has declined to say why Wayman was fired, only saying that it was not for cause, meaning he could still collect his severance pay from the city, which amounted to six months’ salary.

A letter from Raymond to Wayman obtained by the Yakima Herald-Republic under the Public Records Act said she was firing him for “unsatisfactory” job performance but did not elaborate on his professional shortcomings.

In July, Wayman filed a claim against the city alleging that he was fired in violation of whistleblower protection laws. Bill Pickett, Wayman’s attorney, said that Wayman was fired for investigating allegations of sexual harassment, a hostile work environment and other “unethical practices” within the police department.

“(Wayman’s critics) would be surprised to see who Don Wayman has stood up for,” Pickett said this summer, declining to give further details of the allegations. “There are going to be people who are surprised at who he is.”

Raymond, in a statement issued in response to Wayman’s claim, said the investigation involved text messages sent and received by police officers on their personal phones, and that police Chief Dan Christman would conduct the investigation.

Christman’s investigation has concluded and has been turned over to city officials for final action. The Yakima Herald-Republic filed a request for a copy of the report and was initially told by the city’s Public Records Manager Treesa Morales that either the entire document or at least part of it would be available Nov. 15.

But on Nov. 15, Morales said via email that the city was providing notice to the officers named in the report and Teamsters Local 760 that the report had been requested. The police officers have until the close of business Dec. 8 to file a lawsuit to block the report’s release.

State law says agencies “may” provide notice to people that information about them is going to be released, but is not a requirement except in cases involving personnel records.

Union representative Dave Simmons declined to comment on the matter.

Erb, with the coalition for open government, said such notifications, at the very least, delay the release of records. In the worst-case scenario, third party actions force a records requester to go to court, without the option of recovering attorneys fees or daily penalties for withholding a record, since it wasn’t the agency that withheld the record.

“Litigation costs time and money, and requesters often have too little of both,” Erb said. “That’s why we have long argued that any time a third party sues to block disclosure, and loses, the judge should order the third party to pay the requesters’ attorney fees and court costs.

“It’s only fair.”

Reach Donald W. Meyers at dmeyers@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: donaldwmeyers, or https://www.facebook.com/donaldwmeyersjournalist.

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