UPDATED: The controversial leadership style Frank Straub earned as Indianapolis' Public Safety Director followed him to his new job as police chief for Spokane, Washington. Mayor David Condon (D) fired Straub today after his controversial tenure in Spokane began weighing down his re-election bid this fall. In the end, it was his relationship with a female member of his staff, in part, that sent him over the edge according to the Spokesman Review.
. . . Mayor David Condon asked for Straub’s resignation amid complaints about Straub’s leadership style and personnel moves involving two women who were transferred out of the police department . . .
And earlier this year the City of Spokane transferred Monique Cotton from her job as police spokeswoman to a higher-paying job with the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department. Yet her $90,000 salary continues to be paid from the police budget.
City Council members raised questions about the transfer, but Condon’s chief of staff, City Administrator Theresa Sanders, said Cotton’s skills were needed at the park department to “tell the story” of Riverfront Park, which is about to undergo a vast transformation after voters approved a parks bond last year.
Sanders said last month that Cotton’s $9,000 salary increase was an “enticement” to persuade her to change jobs.
However, city officials first attempted to move Cotton to the Spokane Fire Department, an effort rebuffed by fire officials.
Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said city administration officials approached him in April about transferring Cotton.
“The discussion of creating a public safety (public information officer) position and assigning Cotton in there was discussed,” Schaeffer said in an email. “We did have a meeting and decided that we would prefer to do recruitment for someone that was better fitted for fire.”
Cotton, who was hired by Straub in 2013 to lead the department’s communications and marketing strategy, was not the first to be moved while still getting a check from police.
Carly Cortright was paid her annual salary of $82,494 by the police department for 15 months after leaving her position as the police business services director in October 2013 to work as the director of the 311 project, a customer service program under the city’s Office of Neighborhood Services.
Cortright said she was pleased with the transfer because of Straub’s “constant negative feedback and belittling.”
“I left SPD because I was offered an opportunity to be part of a project that could make a real difference in the community,” Cortright said. “I was no longer making that difference at the SPD due to the constant negative feedback and belittling I was receiving from Chief Straub.”
Since Cotton’s transfer was reported, the move has been raised as a campaign issue by Shar Lichty, who is challenging Condon in his bid for re-election . . .The Spokesman Review tiptoed around the rumor mill over Straub's alleged relationship with Cotton, which people speculated had led to her transfer out of the police department. Monique Cotton has responded to social media comments regarding the rumors as untrue and libelous. Her husband, a local TV station sales manager, also stated the break-up of their marriage had nothing to do with Straub.
Rumors had circulated about inappropriate relationships with female staff members he supervised while he was employed as Indianapolis' Public Safety Director. Shortly after Straub was forced out of his job here, he and Amber Myers, director of Animal Care & Control, announced their engagement to be married. Myers, who later resigned her city job and moved to Spokane to wed Straub, claimed she and Straub didn't become romantically involved until after he announced his resignation. Other people doubted Myers' claims. Straub had elevated Myers to her role as Animal Care & Control director. Myers, an attorney, now works as an administrative law judge for Spokane's Office of Administrative Hearings.
Straub's short tenure in Spokane was marked by constant turmoil and turnover in his command staff much like occurred during his tenure in Indianapolis. Police complained about emotional outbursts and profanity-laced, heated exchanges. While Straub's termination as police chief is effective immediately, he is being reassigned to another job that will last until January 1.
A local Spokane TV station, KXLY, attributes Cotton's departure to Straub's "abrasive leadership style" and provides a laundry list of complaints senior police staff had against him:
The coup de grace on Straub's tenure was fired by his own command staff, which, in a report signed by Assistant Chiefs Rick Dobrow and Selby Smith, focused on his leadership style and a series of shortcomings which included:
- Unreasonable emotional outbursts
- Personal attacks
- Threats regarding employment and position
- Scare tactics
- Degradation of character
- Demeaning, condescending treatment
- Profane and highly inappropriate language
Prior to the command staff's letter, the Police Captains and Lieutenants Association also complained about the chief's abrasive leadership which allegedly included profanity-laced screaming at subordinates.
Additionally, the recent departure of the department's public information officer, Monique Cotton, is related to the chief's abrasive leadership style, according to KXLY sources.