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Inquiries into the City of Boise heat up, documents related to former police chief may be sealed

"Has it occurred to you that you may be being fed a narrative that the City wants you to report, without being given the extensive counter-evidence?" Hepworth said.

BOISE, Idaho — Journalists and the public have been seeking more answers as to what happened in the months before Boise Mayor Lauren McLean asked the former chief of police, Ryan Lee, to resign.

Because two lawsuits were filed against the city relating to Lee, documents highlighting more details of the alleged issues could be filed into public record.

However, that may not happen.

According to City of Boise spokesperson Maria Weeg, the city has requested a protective order in the civil case filed by Tom Fleming, a former internal affairs captain in the Boise Police Department. 

Fleming alleges the city didn't protect its employees from alleged harassment from Lee by refraining to put him on leave amid complaints against the former chief. Lee was also never placed on leave pending a criminal investigation into allegations that he injured an officer's neck during a briefing.

A protective order in civil litigation is filed in order to prevent the disclosure of certain information. Weeg said in an email that the city asked Fleming's attorney, Grady Hepworth, to stipulate to the protective order. Weeg said the order "was narrowly tailored to protect information the designating party reasonably believes (1) to constitute personal or confidential information, and/or information in which the party has a privacy interest, and (2) to be subject to protection from disclosure under applicable law." 

This isn't the only lawsuit against the city in the matter -- former Office of Police Accountability (OPA) Director Jesus Jara filed a complaint against the city saying they retaliated against him after some of complaints against Lee were made public.

Jara and his office previously interviewed the nine BPD employees and documented their complaints, then recommended to the mayor that Lee be placed on leave for further investigation. Jara was later fired in December of 2022 for viewing police videos "without cause."

Weeg said that the city "has not yet requested entry of a protective order in the matter of Jesus Jara v. City of Boise by stipulation or by motion."

Jara and Fleming are both represented by Hepworth, who claimed the city has not provided any documents for him to review unless he agrees to the protective order.

Memo criticizes Jara before firing

The city did recently release a document to reporters -- a Nov. 1, 2022, memo from the Mayor's Office to Jara before his firing. Hepworth said he has not received that document, or any others, from the city.

The memo states Jara's office "has exceeded its legislative authority" surrounding the investigation of Lee. Second, it says, "there are instances where the office has failed to follow through with certain responsibilities" and that Jara released confidential information in violation of state code.

The memo states that Jara should have forwarded the complaints against Lee to Internal Affairs (IA), but Lee oversaw IA at the time. Emails from the mayor's Chief of Staff Courtney Washburn also show she told Jara on July 27, 2022, "If a critical incident or complaints requires confidentiality even from OIA, then OPA has the option to independently investigate without initially forwarding the complaint to OIA." 

It also states that OPA reports directly to the mayor and her chief of staff -- but then later goes on to criticize OPA for handing the intake of complaints over to the mayor and her staff, rather than refer the complaining employees to IA or HR.

The memo says Jara should have never recommended Lee's administrative leave, either, and that Jara never retained an attorney for advice in prior investigations. The Idaho Statesman reported that Jara did retain an attorney, Bryan Knox, in June of 2022.

The city claims in the memo they were told by OPA that some of the claims against Lee were false, and that OPA lacked action in the matter.

"We are not aware of any action OPA has taken against the individuals who lodged false complaints, such as refer the individual to OIA to review an allegation of lack of truthfulness or to the City Attorney’s office for prosecution," the memo says.

Attorney responds

Fleming's and Jara's attorney recently responded to the release of this memo to BoiseDev, asking if reporters find the city's actions "suspicious." Hepworth forwarded his response to KTVB and The Idaho Statesman.

"Has it occurred to you that you may be being fed a narrative that the City wants you to report, without being given the extensive counter-evidence?" Hepworth said in an email. Hepworth said he believes city is "manipulating" reporters.

"We cannot participate in this calculated political stunt and misinformation campaign," Hepworth wrote.

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