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This is who Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan texted with last year: Mike Pence’s body man, and Amazon CEO Andy Jassy

caption: Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan, left, claps as the first patients arrive to be vaccinated against Covid-19 at the new civilian-led mass vaccination site at Lumen Field Events Center on Saturday, March 13, 2021, in Seattle.
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Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan, left, claps as the first patients arrive to be vaccinated against Covid-19 at the new civilian-led mass vaccination site at Lumen Field Events Center on Saturday, March 13, 2021, in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

After reporters requested Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s text messages in June 2020, they were told those messages had been deleted. KUOW has received a log for those text messages, which show some of her messages — the mayor’s office says that most of her messages were via iMessage, which are not included in the log.

We have fresh insight into who Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan was text messaging last year — previously a question mark after it was discovered that 10 months worth of Durkan’s text messages had disappeared.

Following this revelation, we requested the city’s telecom provider's text message logs, which included the names and numbers of people in communication with the mayor from January to August of last year. Missing from the logs are the text messages themselves.

Among the most notable names in the text logs is Zach Bauer, close aide, or “body man,” to former Vice President Mike Pence. The log shows at least 100 messages exchanged between Mayor Durkan and Bauer during March and April of last year, as the coronavirus pandemic was first beginning.

According to Stephanie Formas, the mayor’s chief of staff, Durkan met with former Vice President Mike Pence last year. Pence was, at the time, leading the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Durkan remained in contact with Pence’s office over procuring Covid-19 test kits, personal protective equipment, and the field hospital at CenturyLink Field.

The mayor also exchanged 13 text messages with Andy Jassy, Amazon CEO, on July 23 and 24, 2020.

Formas said their conversation seemed to center on scheduling a call to discuss public safety and the Seattle City Council's proposed actions. Formas noted that in July 2020, the City Council was considering cuts to the Seattle Police Department and Chief Best’s salary.

The Seattle City Council also passed the “JumpStart Seattle” tax on big businesses like Amazon, in July, two weeks before the text message conversation appeared to take place.

In mid-June, as protests against police brutality were ongoing, the mayor was in contact with Ray Duda, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Seattle at that time. Weeks before, on May 31, she received a couple messages from Gen. Brett Daugherty, adjutant general and director of the Washington Military Department.

Missing from the text message logs, however, is any record of conversations the mayor had between June 1 to June 9 — a contentious time between protesters calling for the defunding of police and Seattle officers. It was on June 8 that Seattle police abandoned their East Precinct on Capitol Hill.

KUOW had requested the mayor’s text messages from early June 2020, in hopes of learning what transpired when Seattle police left their East Precinct on Capitol Hill, and who made the call. (Last week, we published a story that pointed to Assistant Chief Thomas Mahaffey.)

Unbeknownst to us at the time, we were given text messages involving the mayor, obtained from other city employees’ devices. Some of these recreated messages were sent between June 1 and June 10. When asked why these records weren’t noted on the text message log, Formas said the log only included the mayor’s text messages, and not iMessages, messages sent directly from iPhone to iPhone. That’s because cellular companies do not track iMessages, just SMS messages.

The mayor’s missing text messages, and a related whistleblower complaint alleging public records law violations, came to light in May of this year.

Public records staff in the Mayor’s Office reported that they had been recreating the mayor’s text messages, narrowly interpreting requests asking for the mayor’s texts, and not informing requesters. This was done under the direction of Michelle Chen, who at the time was overseeing how the mayor’s records requests were handled, and also acted as the mayor’s legal counsel.

Chen has since been removed from public records work, a spokesperson with the mayor’s office said.

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