After meeting with Justice Department, McGinn says SPD talks still alive
In a separate meeting, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan spoke with City Council members at the federal courthouse in Seattle about the negotiations.
Seattle Times staff reporters
Emerging from a meeting at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Mayor Mike McGinn said 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, said talks remain "ongoing" but provided no details about his afternoon discussion with Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who oversees the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
On Wednesday morning, the Justice Department and McGinn's office issued a joint statement which said the meeting "focused on the work ahead as the Department of Justice and the city of Seattle continue efforts to reach agreement on all issues."
Thomas Bates, the executive assistant U.S. Attorney in Seattle, said nothing further would be said.
Hours after McGinn's meeting, the U.S. attorney in Seattle, Jenny Durkan, met behind closed doors at the federal courthouse with City Council members Sally Clark and Tim Burgess to discuss the Justice Department's proposal to curtail excessive force in the Police Department.
The separate meetings could suggest negotiations to reach a settlement have stalled, with McGinn and Durkan seeking to explain their positions before federal attorneys decide whether to file a lawsuit that could force changes.
McGinn said he sought Tuesday's meeting with Perez because he already was on the East Coast and believed it would be "helpful if we got to know each other." The mayor was accompanied by his chief of staff, Julie McCoy, and Marco Lowe, his director of intergovernmental relations.
McGinn, who spoke to a Times reporter while walking along Constitution Avenue to catch a cab, said he was aware of Durkan's meeting with council members, but he said he did not know the reason for it.
Burgess declined to comment on the meeting, and Clark, president of the City Council, could not be reached.
City Attorney Pete Holmes, who also attended, declined to comment through his spokeswoman, Kimberly Mills.
Before the meeting, Clark said Durkan extended the invitation Monday, and that the purpose was not to negotiate but for "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.
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, while supporting changes, has complained 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. But he has said he's willing to negotiate a consent decree.
As part of his trip, he also met Monday in New York with NBA Commissioner David Stern to tell him Seattle — where an arena plan is under consideration — is committed to bringing back an NBA team. McGinn then stopped in Washington, D.C., before traveling to Orlando, Fla., for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which is to take place Wednesday through Saturday.
McGinn has responded to the Justice Department with the city's "20/20" plan, calling for 20 changes in 20 months in the Police Department. But Durkan has labeled the plan a "framework" that lacks substance to assure changes would be made.
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.
The city submitted its counterproposal to the Justice Department on May 16; it has not been made public.
Kyung Song reported from Washington, D.C. Times staff reporter Mike Carter contributed to this story, which includes material from Times archives.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302