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Former Spokane City Administrator created hostile work environment, shared details of intimate relationship, city investigator says

Former City Administrator Johnnie Perkins
Michael C. Anglin/city of Spokane
Former City Administrator Johnnie Perkins

Newly released documents show former Spokane City Administrator Johnnie Perkins was accused of dating a city employee and sharing intimate details of their relationship in the workplace. The city’s human resources investigator said those behaviors created a hostile work environment.

According to the report, released through a public record request this week, Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward asked the city’s HR department to investigate Perkins in early July after employees approached her with concerns.

Perkins was accused of dating a city employee, referred to as Witness 3 in the report, and sharing intimate details of their relationship in the workplace.

According to the report, the relationship started in April. Perkins asked for HR’s permission to date the employee, and was granted that permission.

During their relationship, Perkins allegedly showed text messages to another worker at the city, identified as Witness 5, discussing his dates and the physical appearance of Witness 3. He also allegedly shared details about the sexual relationship he had with Witness 3, including sexual details from a trip they took to Las Vegas.

When the relationship with Witness 3 ended, investigators wrote that the breakup greatly impacted Perkins’ ability to do his job.

According to the report, after the relationship with Perkins ended, Witness 3 reached out to him to ask why a low performance review had not been replaced by a more recent positive assessment.

Investigators also wrote that Perkins had been warned against pursuing romantic relationships in the workplace in the past, after he asked a city employee for a date in 2021, making her uncomfortable.

The city closed its investigation when Perkins resigned, but in the report, Human Resources Director David Moss said there was evidence that Perkins had violated the city’s sexual harassment policy, created a hostile workplace and damaged employee morale.

Perkins resigned July 13, before the details became public, citing a recently diagnosed heart condition.

In Perkins’ written response to the investigation, he reiterated that he had received permission to date the employee. He also denied accusations that he shared inappropriate details of his relationship while at work. He also said that Witness 3 asked him to use his influence as city administrator to replace her old performance review, and to intervene on behalf of another city employee, and he had refused.

In a statement to the media, Perkins categorically denied the allegations contained in the investigation report, calling the probe biased and flawed. He said he had agreed to an interview with the city to share his side, and it was canceled.

Perkins previously worked at the City of San Diego as the deputy chief operating officer. He joined Woodward's administration in 2021 replacing Wes Crago.

He previously was accused by former Neighborhoods, Housing and Human Services Director Cupid Alexander of racial bias. An independent investigation conducted by an outside firm found no evidence of bias.

During a press conference July 14, Woodward saidshe could not discuss the details of the allegations – saying the report the city’s HR team had assembled would speak for itself.

“I have full trust that the HR process was conducted the way that it needed to be conducted to get to the decision that we made,” she said.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.