Officials knew Seattle mayor’s phone setting caused texts to vanish

Months of text messages from Mayor Durkan are disappearing

SMS from Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan and other city officials went missing for almost ten months while Seattle saw numerous demonstrations, the SPD eastern district evacuated and the CHOP built.

Seattle Mayor’s office Jenny Durkan said earlier this spring that 10 months of her missing text messages could be traced back to an “unknown technology problem.”

However, internal emails seem to show that officials had known for months why the texts were missing and when they disappeared, the Seattle Times reported.

And City Attorney Pete Holmes says Durkan’s office’s original statement was misleading.

Durkan’s texts were supposed to be automatically deleted on a phone she was using in July 2020 shortly after the racial justice protests began in the city, according to January emails between the city’s mayor’s office and the city’s prosecutor’s office.

These and other emails – among the hundreds of pages of records that formed the basis of an ethics investigation found that the mayor’s office had violated the state’s public records law – also indicate that Durkan’s chief of staff was involved in informing the public about the missing texts.

The mayor’s office declined to answer questions about these emails the Seattle Times received through a public record filing with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.

TIED TOGETHER: Dealing with the missing texts from Mayor Durkan brings claims of $ 5 million against Seattle

Durkan spokesman Anthony Derrick said instead that “a legal battle with the city,” including a lawsuit filed by the Times for alleged violations of the Public Records Act, would produce thousands of documents and information.

Derrick added, “As is common with such cases, it is seldom right to make assumptions based on individual records until a thorough and systematic job can be done.”

But Holmes told the newspaper that his office had warned Durkan’s office that it was “untrue” to publicly attribute the loss to an unspecified technical problem.

“Somebody changed the mayor’s settings from keep to delete – it’s a deliberate act,” said Holmes.

According to the laws and guidelines of the country, texts from local electoral officials and other communications about public affairs must be kept for at least two years before being sent to the State Archives for further evaluation. Anyone who deliberately destroys a public record that is to be kept is guilty of a crime under state law. A forensic report on the missing texts is currently overdue.

Seattle could end up paying “tens of millions of dollars in damages and fees” to resolve complaints about the Durkan government’s handling of last year’s protests, and “those damned missing text messages” make the city’s legal defense difficult, Holmes said

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