Pete Holmes: The Lost Interview

By Jonah Spangenthal-Lee January 11, 2010

And by "lost interview" we mostly mean that we talked to Pete last week and then forgot to post about it. 

We caught up with City Attorney Pete Holmes at the South Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting last week and grilled him for a few minutes about his plans for nightlife in Seattle, and reaction to an angry farewell letter sent out by a former city prosecutor who was let go last month.

Nightlife was a hot topic during the run up to the election, and Holmes says it’s still “on the front burner” in his office. With all of the support Holmes received from the nightlife industry, it appears, unsurprisingly, that Holmes is taking a hard look at some of the city’s draconian policies, which date back to the Mark Sidran era.

While Sidran was city attorney, his office forced so-called Good Neighbor Agreements on a number of bars and nightclubs around the city, which required club owners to hire flocks of security staffers, put restrictions on patrons’ clothing and types of music they played, and effectively made club owners responsible for problems within a certain radius of their clubs.

Under Tom Carr, the city continued to use GNAs to bully the nightlife industry and business owners in Seattle. Holmes, however, seems to have a different take on the GNAs, saying an agreement “where one party forces it down the others throat is not an agreement.” Holmes didn’t say whether the city would stop using the GNAs altogether or call off the agreements it has in place.

In a reversal of Carr's anti-nightlife policies, Holmes' office has dropped its objection to Belltown bar Tia Lou's liquor license renewal. Holmes also says he has no plans to go after gay bars who play porn on their TVs. Last year, Carr's office relentlessly pressured a a handful of gay bars on Capitol Hill—CC’s, the Eagle, and R Place—to quit playing porn. Holmes believes this is a “borderline first amendment” issue.

Finally, Holmes says he intends to halt Carr's practice of farming out no-bid contract work to the Stafford, Frey, Cooper law firm. Holmes says the city is waiting for a few cases to be resolved—including the appeal of a $13 million award given to a Seattle firefighter who was injured at a firehouse—and will meet with attorneys from Stafford, Frey, Cooper in the coming weeks. “I hope to…post all of the law department contracts," Holmes says. "I want them competitively bid. It’s all about the best bang for the buck.”

Holmes also addressed the angry letter sent out by former City Attorney's office criminal division chief Bob Hood. In the letter, Hood took a shot at Holmes of notifying employees over the phone that they were being let go. 

Although Holmes' spokeswoman Kathy Mulady initially disputed Hood's account, Holmes’  acknowledges the firings were in fact conducted over the phone.

Holmes didn't have much to say about Hood's letter, but says it was "painful for everyone" in his office. “I was disappointed [by Hood's letter] and I was worried about his state of mind," Holmes says. 

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