City Attorney Peter Holmes' transition into office is turning out to be a bit rocky.


As we first reported earlier today, Holmes cut loose a dozen attorneys and division heads in the city's law department late last year.


While most of the staff members packed up their things without a peep, one longtime assistant city attorney lashed out at Holmes in a farewell email sent to the 100 or so attorneys in the law department's criminal division on New Year's Eve.


In his letter, former criminal division head Bob Hood trashes Holmes—using a handful of Tom Carr's campaign trail talking points—attacking his leadership and inexperience as a prosecutor, and slams Holmes for firing law department staffers over the phone, just before Christmas:


(bolds added throughout)



When you return many of your colleagues will not be here because of the new regime’s decision to not “reappoint” them.  During the discussions that Mr. Holmes has had with many of you, he disingenuously cited the need to eliminate several positions due to the “budget.”  Assuming arguendo that he was being honest, his comment evidences an impotence to defend this Division from personnel cuts that will have serious public safety implications for this city and/or incompetence at the fundamentals of the budget process.  Giving up without a fight is hardly the sign of a public safety leader.


But it is obvious that his decisions had nothing to do with the budget and we all know it.  His discharge of career professionals on short notice within days of the Christmas holidays shows a flagrant disrespect for the office he purports to lead and a contemptuous disregard for men and women who have dedicated years of public service to Seattle.   Surrounding himself with a bloated bureaucracy of new “senior” staff positions while eliminating attorneys with significant criminal justice expertise is hardly a legitimate crime reduction strategy.


Adding a chief of staff, a grant writer, a communications director, and a policy advisor does not hide the fact that Mr. Holmes is without any significant experience as a public prosecutor.   We have Rule 9 volunteer attorneys in this office who have more prosecution experience than he does and they know it, we know it, and he knows it too.   The Draconian use of fear and subterfuge to try to pacify this Division will not make one who is unqualified an effective leader.  Our democratic system may have given him a title, but it will take much more than that for him to earn the respect of those who know a public safety professional when they see one.  Rest assured our democratic system is more than capable of making up for its mistakes.


He obviously orchestrated most of his late in the day “discharge” phone calls so that he would not have to face those who he choose not to reappoint.  Leaving messages after 5 and urging them to call him is again hardly the sign of a leader.  Where I grew up, if you wanted to get rid of someone, you at least looked them in the eye and told them why.  That is the least that he should have done for seven people who have collectively given nearly 100 years of their careers to this Division to protect public safety in this city.



The entire letter, and a response from Holmes' office, is posted after the jump.


 




 


 



More towards the beginning of my years here, I used to write a piece for the Criminal Mind called Musing from the Trenches, based in large part on my fifteen years of experience as a trial prosecutor in Detroit during its heyday as the murder capital of the world.  Hopefully I’m a little older and wiser now as I deliver a final musing after 11 years as the Chief of this Division.  But don’t count on it.


Fortunately we have had plenty of opportunities to say our goodbyes, and although this is our final one, I suspect it not really a final goodbye.  As I’ve said before, doors close and doors open.


I want to begin by reiterating what a great experience it has been to work here with all of you.  You are a wonderful group of dedicated and caring professionals who have given years of your lives to help protect public safety in this City.  Do not let anyone try to convince you otherwise.  I am sure that those of you who remain will do all that you can to insure that this office stays dedicated to that task.  Seattle is forever in your debt and  I wish you and your families the best of luck and good fortune in the coming year.


I probably should end here, but I will not.   A long time ago I was inspired by Dr. Martin  Luther King Jr. when he talked of “Speaking Truth to Power”.  His context concerned being unable to remain silent in the face of the U.S. involvement in the Viet Nam War.  Though my reasons for continuing to speak out today pale in comparison to his reasons for doing so, there are some basic truths about what has transpired in this office over the last 30 days that need to said and that I know many of you are thinking about.


When you return many of your colleagues will not be here because of the new regime’s decision to not “reappoint” them.  During the discussions that Mr. Holmes has had with many of you, he disingenuously cited the need to eliminate several positions due to the “budget.”  Assuming arguendo that he was being honest, his comment evidences an impotence to defend this Division from personnel cuts that will have serious public safety implications for this city and/or incompetence at the fundamentals of the budget process.  Giving up without a fight is hardly the sign of a public safety leader.


 But it is obvious that his decisions had nothing to do with the budget and we all know it.  His discharge of career professionals on short notice within days of the Christmas holidays shows a flagrant disrespect for the office he purports to lead and a contemptuous disregard for men and women who have dedicated years of public service to Seattle.   Surrounding himself with a bloated bureaucracy of new “senior” staff positions while eliminating attorneys with significant criminal justice expertise is hardly a legitimate crime reduction strategy.


 Adding a chief of staff, a grant writer, a communications director, and a policy advisor does not hide the fact that Mr. Holmes is without any significant experience as a public prosecutor.   We have Rule 9 volunteer attorneys in this office who have more prosecution experience than he does and they know it, we know it, and he knows it too.   The Draconian use of fear and subterfuge to try to pacify this Division will not make one who is unqualified an effective leader.  Our democratic system may have given him a title, but it will take much more than that for him to earn the respect of those who know a public safety professional when they see one.  Rest assured our democratic system is more than capable of making up for its mistakes.


 He obviously orchestrated most of his late in the day “discharge” phone calls so that he would not have to face those who he choose not to reappoint.  Leaving messages after 5 and urging them to call him is again hardly the sign of a leader.  Where I grew up, if you wanted to get rid of someone, you at least looked them in the eye and told them why.  That is the least that he should have done for seven people who have collectively given nearly 100 years of their careers to this Division to protect public safety in this city.


I’ll leave it to the attorneys to access how honored they feel by this gesture.



As a Division Chief, I always knew that I was expendable, it comes with the territory.  I neither expected nor received any common courtesies.  But I am sickened and saddened by what he has done to so many others both here and in the Civil Division.  I am also concerned about what it has done to you who remain.  There is nothing I can do about it, but I don’t have to sit silently by and pretend it has not happened.  Hopefully you will find some solace in the fact it has been said.


The saving grace is that I know that these people will land on their feet and go on to bigger and better things.  I also know that the rest of you will make the best of it.  That gives me something to look forward to in the New Year.  May good fortune shine upon you.


Best regards always,


Bob


Please do not respond to this email as I have intentionally copied Mr. Holmes. You have enough problems as it is.



It's unclear what kind of impact Hoods' letter will have on staff morale within the department. Several attorney's office employees we've spoken to over the last few months have expressed concern about Holmes' move into office, but mostly because they were worried about staffing cuts. Holmes' spokeswoman Kathy Mulady says Holmes has no plans to address Hood's letter with his staff. "We're always concerned about staff morale," she says, "but we're not going to discuss [the letter] with the staff."


Mulady declined to comment on much of the content of the letter, but disputes Hoods' claim that Holmes fired attorneys over the phone. "Pete spoke to almost every single city attorney during the transition in person," Mulady says. "Some he may have given the final word to over the phone, but I think they knew during their meetings with Pete."