McGinn says SPD talks 'ongoing' after Justice Dept. meeting
U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan has set a separate meeting with Seattle council members to discuss the negotiations
WASHINGTON — Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn emerged from a meeting Tuesday at the Justice Department, saying he and the nation's top civil-rights attorney discussed a "framework for negotiations" to bring about changes in the Seattle Police Department.
McGinn, who is on an East Coast work trip, finished his afternoon meeting as U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan prepared to meet in Seattle with City Council members Tuesday to discuss the Justice Department's proposal to curtail excessive force in the Police Department.
The separate meetings could suggest that negotiations to reach a settlement have stalled, with McGinn and Durkan seeking to explain their positions.
McGinn, who was accompanied by two aides, said he sought the meeting with Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who oversees the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, because he was already on the East Coast and thought it would be "helpful if we got to know each other."
Asked the status of negotiations on a settlement, McGinn said, "It's ongoing."
McGinn, who spoke while walking along Constitution Avenue to catch a cab, said he was aware of Durkan's meeting with council members, but did not know the reason for it.
Sally Clark, president of the City Council, said Tuesday that she and Councilmember Tim Burgess would attend a 4 p.m. meeting at Durkan's invitation.
City Attorney Pete Holmes also will attend, said his spokeswoman Kimberly Mills.
Clark said Durkan extended the invitation on Monday, and that the meeting is not to negotiate but for the purpose of "touching base" and getting a "status check-in."
McGinn and Holmes have been leading the city's negotiations after Clark, Burgess and Councilmember Bruce Harrell, the head of the council's public-safety committee, withdrew from the process in late March, citing McGinn's unwillingness to collaborate with them in an effort to reach a negotiated settlement with the Justice Department.
The Justice Department confirmed in a statement Tuesday that Perez planned to meet with McGinn. "The department declines further comment at this time," the statement said.
Perez and Durkan announced the results of a Justice Department civil-rights investigation of the Police Department in December, finding that officers routinely use excessive force and citing troubling evidence of biased policing.
McGinn has embraced the need for changes in the Police Department, but complained for weeks that the Justice Department is seeking to impose a costly and burdensome consent decree on the city, which would be overseen by an independent monitor and a federal judge.
McGinn met Monday in New York City with NBA Commissioner David Stern to tell him the city is committed to bringing an NBA team back to Seattle, Pickus said. McGinn has proposed a deal to build a sports and entertainment arena in Sodo as part of his efforts.
McGinn stopped in Washington, D.C., before traveling to Orlando, Fla., for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The conference is to take place Wednesday to Saturday.
McGinn repeatedly has said he is negotiating in good faith with the Justice Department to reach a consent decree and avoid a lawsuit in which federal attorneys would seek to force changes.
He has pushed the city's "20/20" plan, calling for 20 changes in 20 months in the Police Department. McGinn contends the plan likely would stay within the existing police budget, compared with up to $41 million a year he anticipates under the Justice Department's plan.
Federal attorneys have labeled the dollar figure as wrong, and Durkan in Seattle has called the "20/20" plan a "framework" that lacks substance to assure changes would be implemented.
McGinn's meeting in Washington, D.C., comes amid delicate talks between the city and Justice Department, which grew increasingly tense when, according to sources, Jonathan Smith, chief of the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, wrote two sternly worded letters to the city in May questioning the city's willingness to negotiate in good faith.
The Justice Department is proposing, among other things, that the Police Department add 54 sergeants to improve supervision and bolster training requirements, according to a confidential city memorandum previously disclosed by The Times.
Federal attorneys originally set a deadline of June 1 to reach an agreement, but the Seattle shootings on May 30 that left five people and the gunman dead led to a delay, said a source familiar with McGinn's visit to D.C.
The city submitted its proposal to the Justice Department on May 16; it has not been made public.
The proposal does not address federal concerns about biased policing against minorities because the Justice Department reached no formal finding on that issue, according to sources. But the "20/20" plan includes measures to deal with the issue.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302