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Fehlman investigation took longer than city was willing to pay for

Investigator Rebecca Dean spent more time on the investigation into alleged misdeeds by Bainbridge Island Police Chief Jon Fehlman than the city was willing to pay for, according to billing records submitted by Dean to the city.

Dean was hired by the city of Bainbridge Island to investigate a broad litany of accusations made against the chief by the Bainbridge Island Police Guild after the union took a vote of "no confidence" in Fehlman in June.

Members of the union accused Fehlman of malfeasance, and claimed he had violated police department and city policies and state and federal laws.

The city hired Dean, an attorney who specializes in independent investigations on employment and workplace issues, for $240 an hour in late June.

According to the first billing invoice submitted by Dean, she charged the city $17,993 on Aug. 1 for work done on the investigation through July 31.

Another bill was submitted Sept. 1. Though the investigation invoice details more than 55 hours of work through Aug. 31, which totaled an additional $13,404 in charges, Dean billed the city for just $7,006.

Dean had previously agreed to charge the city not more than $25,000 for her final written report and exhibits. The first bill and the second discounted bill total $25,000.

All told, the investigation took 130 hours. The probe would have cost more than $31,000, however, if Dean had billed the city for all the hours she had worked on the case.

According to Dean's most recent invoice, she spent much of early August preparing for an interview with Fehlman to talk about the guild's allegations.

Dean interviewed Fehlman on Aug. 14, and her work on the case that day stretched for more than three hours.

Dean began drafting her report for the city before she interviewed Fehlman Aug. 14, billing records show.

Records also indicate that Dean interviewed Bainbridge Detective Trevor Ziemba shortly after she talked with Fehlman, and also tried to contact former city manager Brenda Bauer. Dean's invoices also indicate the investigator tried to interview former city manager Mark Dombroski.

Billing records show that Dean spent some of her time during the investigation talking with members of the police guild, including officers who had been disciplined by the department's leadership. Those officers included Scott Weiss, the former president of the guild who was suspended after an investigation revealed he was involved in surveillance of a city council member following a council meeting in October 2010; Lt. Phil Hawkins, who was reprimanded July 30 by Interim Public Safety Director Larry Dickerson for sleeping while on duty during a late shift in January; and Lt. Denise Giuntoli, vice president of the guild, who was disciplined for not reporting the incident involving Hawkins after she had been told about it by others on the police force.

Billing records also show that Dean continued to revise her report, including work to incorporate late-arriving documents and information, just days before she presented the report to Interim City Manager Morgan Smith.

The report does not cover all of the allegations made by Bainbridge officers against their chief, as the city scaled back the focus of the investigation shortly after it began.

Public records obtained by the Review show that Smith asked Dean to not investigate claims that Fehlman allegedly gave false testimony during the Ostling civil rights case.

In the Ostling case, a federal jury found the city liable in the October 2010 police shooting death of a mentally ill man after officers responded to a 911 call at the Ostling family home. The family's lawsuit resulted in a $1 million judgement against the city, though the city's attorneys have said the judgement was flawed and have asked for a new trial.

The Fehlman investigation also did not address allegations made by union officials that were based purely on policy, including Fehlman's management of the police department.

The city is planning to release the report this week. The report is not expected to exceed 15 pages.

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