THE BATTLE between city hall and the Portland Police Association (PPA) over the fate of Ron Frashour—the cop fired for killing Aaron Campbell in 2010—has been even juicier than anyone realized.
Eight days after PPA President Daryl Turner publicly aired confidential details from a 2011 arbitration hearing over Frashour's dismissal—a broadside first reported by the Mercury—the city very quietly issued a terse letter accusing the union of violating a federal court order and other legal agreements meant to keep those secrets, well, secret.
The 22-page letter by City Attorney James Van Dyke, obtained through a public records request, threatened legal action if necessary. It was sent to the PPA's attorneys on June 13, a week after the Mercury posted (and the Oregonian described) transcripts of testimony from a former police training official and a day after the O posted transcripts of testimony given by Police Chief Mike Reese.
"Beyond the violations, you should be aware that PPA's credibility has been severely damaged by these actions," Van Dyke's letter says. "I understand your client and mine have a difference of opinion in regard to the Frashour disciplinary proceedings and our clients may have disputes in the future. In order to have any kind of productive relationship, the city must be able to trust PPA."
The backdrop for all this intrigue, of course, is the fight before the Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB) over Mayor Sam Adams' refusal to reinstate Frashour.
By talking about the arbitration, and with the city deciding it's legally unable to respond, the PPA has been able to seize control of the narrative. But the union's goal isn't to influence the ERB members, per se. It's likely to persuade rank-and-file cops and city commissioners—in the event the ERB sides against Adams later this summer—not to back a court challenge.
That dynamic has clearly left the city stewing. Van Dyke's letter is a sign the city is ready to hit back, painting the union as dishonest and bearing an obvious ax to grind.
Ironically, in pressing its accusations, the city may have gotten a helping hand from an unlikely source: the Oregonian.
A few days after Van Dyke's letter went out, Portland Copwatch's Dan Handelman noticed something peculiar about the Reese transcripts posted by the O on June 12: The paper never fully cleaned them up. The properties field shows an author named "Will" (presumably union counsel Will Aitchison) and a file creation date of May 27, more than a week before Turner first went public.
That doesn't prove that Aitchison actually sent them, but it's an interesting—dare I say tantalizing—clue left shockingly uncovered by the city's paper of record.
Even funnier is that the transcripts, all of the many thousands of pages of them, might finally have been shared by the time you're reading this.
As of press time Tuesday, June 19, thanks to a court motion the day before and presumably other maneuvers, that was a very real possibility. We've been asking for them since the arbitrator ruled in Frashour's favor this spring. It's about time.