Seattle Police employee fired after being accused of spreading rumor about chief
A Seattle Police Department employee was fired Wednesday afternoon after the employee was accused of fomenting a rumor about Police Chief Adrian Diaz having an alleged romantic relationship with someone Diaz would later hire to be a top-level advisor.
The employee was in the department’s media relations division. Sources confirmed to KUOW that the employee, who was on a temporary contract, was no longer employed as of Wednesday afternoon.
The firing comes less than one day after KUOW published an investigation outlining the probes and internal inquiries that have been launched as a result of the rumor’s spread through the department.
The employee fired was not one of KUOW’s 23 sources for the investigation.
The rumor spread throughout the department after the woman started her employment in May. As one employee told KUOW, “Everyone was talking about this.”
The temporary employee became the subject of an Equal Employment Opportunity investigation, an internal human resources inquiry, after admitting to talking about the rumor with others, Diaz's attorney Ted Buck said.
The employee was placed on paid administrative leave in July, days after a conservative Facebook group posted about the chief’s alleged romantic involvement.
Seattle Police declined to comment on the firing.
Diaz has denied the relationship was ever romantic through his attorney Buck. Buck told KUOW that Diaz and the advisor are friends, nothing more.
“Are they romantic friends? No, they're not,” Buck said. “Has Adrian helped her put dimmer switches on some of her electrical outlets because that's what he does? Yeah, that's the kind of friendship they have.”
When asked about the internal investigation into the temporary employee, Buck said it was deemed to be the “appropriate method for the investigation, based upon interference with a police department employee's ability to do her or his job without having to deal with things that they shouldn't have to deal with.”
Diaz learned the rumors were spreading roughly seven months ago, Buck said. He said that rumors were partly sparked by officers seeing the chief’s vehicle more frequently at one of the precincts, which is located close to the woman’s home.
Diaz was seen going on several occasions into the woman’s apartment building. Buck said the chief would meet with the woman and her friends inside her residence, to help her friend prepare for police exams, and that Diaz had helped the woman with home improvement projects.
Buck confirmed that Diaz and the woman had several late-night meals before he hired her. “He’s had dinner with her on several occasions because she helps him with speech ideas.”
They were together on New Year’s Eve at police headquarters, a photo obtained by KUOW showed. A source close to Diaz said they were working on Diaz’s acceptance speech, to be read when he was sworn in as permanent chief 12 days later. This was five months before she was hired.
According to Buck, Diaz consulted with the FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security about rumors that some officers were following the advisor, which Buck said would be “highly improper.”
“I don't believe that they found anything worthy of investigating,” Buck said of the federal agencies.
He added that Diaz didn’t necessarily believe his officers were tracking the advisor, he said, but that the chief wanted to be sure.
“You can't have police officers following private citizens around for no reason,” Buck said.
Diaz himself addressed the rumor with his command staff, according to two sources, telling them that he believed the rumor originated from them, and that he intended to investigate.
Separately, complaints were being lodged against Diaz at the Office of Police Accountability.
Several anonymous complaints alleged behavior that would violate city policy on supervisor/employee relationships, which says the department will not “knowingly place employees with a family or personal relationship in a supervisor/subordinate assignment.”
The accountability office is conducting an intake investigation into these complaints and will eventually decide if a formal investigation will be launched. Seattle’s Office of Inspector General will review the accountability office’s decision, and then decide if they concur or disagree. Regardless, their call is the one that will ultimately stand.
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