Washington prosecutors are calling for an investigation into the former Seattle mayor’s phone

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King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has asked Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall to investigate the 2020 deletion of text messages from the phones of then-Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and other city leaders.

Satterberg said in an email statement Thursday that he wasn’t aware that anyone would start this investigation without solicitation, the Seattle Times reported.

“As well as the public’s right to an open courtroom, people have a right to know what’s in public documents — including text messages,” he wrote.

Satterberg’s office requested the investigation on July 28, spokesman Casey McNerthney said.

Cole-Tindall spokeswoman Cynthia Sampson said the agency is in the early stages of reviewing the matter.

Last year, a whistleblower in Durkan’s office revealed the mayor’s texts from a 10-month period — including the summer of 2020 when police used tear gas on Black Lives Matter protesters and cleared the East Precinct — were missing.

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The Seattle Times discovered that other leaders, including Fire Chief Harold Scoggins and then-Police Commissioner Carmen Best, had not preserved their writings from around the same time.

In February, a forensic analysis commissioned in response to complaints about the city’s handling of the 2020 protests found that Durkan’s phone was manually set in July 2020 to automatically delete texts after 30 days.

Washington prosecutors have requested an investigation into the deleted text messages of former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.

The analysis did not reveal who changed the text retention setting on Durkan’s phone. Durkan said she did not delete the lyrics.

She said the city’s information technology department was working on her phones in July 2020 to fix problems. The Department of Information Technology has stated that it is not the department’s practice to change retention settings to delete messages.

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The forensic analysis did not examine why at least seven other officers, including Scoggins, Best and police commanders under Best, failed to retain their texts. The analysis found data consistent with what Best said in a statement that she regularly deleted her texts.

Analysis could not find any backups of Durkan and Best’s May 2020 and June 2020 texts.

Several state regulations and laws govern the retention of public records, including text.

Public record retention guidelines require that texts and other communications by elected local officials on public affairs be retained for at least two years before being sent to state archives “for assessment and selective retention.”

Anyone who willfully destroys a public record intended to be preserved is guilty of a criminal offense under state law. Most elected and public officials in Washington, including mayors, are required to attend training that includes record keeping information.

Durkan and Best did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Following the release of the forensic analysis, Washington Coalition for Open Government President and Seattle City Councilman Andrew Lewis called for an outside investigation into the matter.

Mayor Bruce Harrell, who succeeded Durkan in January, said in February he would consult with prosecutor Ann Davison to determine an appropriate course of action. He did not communicate any next steps.

During last year’s election, Seattle mayoral candidate Colleen Echohawk called on Attorney General Bob Ferguson to investigate, and his office said only local law enforcement could investigate.

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“We don’t normally ask for an investigation,” Satterberg said in his statement on Thursday. “But over the past few weeks and months, I’ve heard from people in the community that this matter is important to them, and I have taken it as my responsibility to take this request to the sheriff before the end of my term.”

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