Whistleblower Files Bar Complaint against Portland City Attorney, Contends Office Concealed Tribute to Nazi-Era Soldiers
By Maxine Bernstein
The Oregonian | December 22, 2010
Robert Seaver, the former friend of Portland Capt. Mark Kruger who helped spur an internal affairs investigation that led to discipline against Kruger for building a public tribute to five Nazi-era German soldiers at a city park, has filed a complaint with the Oregon State Bar against a deputy city attorney.
Seaver contends the city attorney’s office “concealed” evidence of the plaques in the city’s effort to defend Kruger in federal lawsuits.
Police internal affairs investigator Mike Barkley learned the city attorney’s office had the controversial five memorial plaques that Kruger had taken down from Rocky Butte while he faced federal lawsuits between 2002 and 2005. The suits alleged he used excessive force during downtown anti-war protests.
Kruger removed the plaques and gave them to the city’s attorney’s office during the federal litigation. City attorneys kept the plaques in a litigation file for at least six years. The city attorney’s office never initiated an investigation into what the plaques were for or why Kruger put them up until the city faced pressure from Seaver to conduct an internal inquiry.
“I understand that the role of the city attorney is to defend their client,” Seaver wrote in his complaint. “However, does this role extend to concealing the physical evidence of the crimes committed by their client? Crimes that counsel went on to aid and abet Kruger in by failing to disclose them?”
The Oregonian’s previous coverage of Portland Police Bureau Capt. Mark Kruger and his tribute to five Nazi-era German soldiers. Deputy City Attorney Tracy Pool Reeve said Wednesday she hasn’t seen the complaint, but dismissed any notion that she or her office concealed evidence. Reeve said the city did not produce the plaques to the plaintiffs in the lawsuits because the court ruled that no further discovery was necessary. Reeve would not say why Kruger removed the plaques during the pending federal lawsuits, or if she or the city attorney’s office knew he was taking them down from Rocky Butte.
“I can’t talk at this time about privileged attorney-client communications,” she said.
Alan Graf, one of the plaintiff’s lawyers who accused Kruger of being a Nazi sympathizer who had no tolerance for any “political dissent from the left,” said he learned about the plaques while deposing Seaver. Afterwards, he issued a wide-ranging request for discovery, and a second chance to depose Kruger. He also sent an investigator to Rocky Butte to locate them, but he only found a bunch of screws lying in the dirt.
According to federal court records, the city vigorously fought any further discovery or depositions.
Reeve said Wednesday the plaques were “completely irrelevant,” in relation to the pending lawsuits, and that the evidence showed Kruger was not a Nazi political sympathizer, but had a longterm interest in German military history.
In 2005, the city ended up settling two of the federal civil lawsuits for $300,000; a third was thrown out.
Once the Police Bureau investigated the plaques over the last year , Kruger’s former Cmdr. Dave Famous wrote that he was “deeply concerned” they purported to honor SS – Obersturnfuhrer Michael Wittman, a member of the Waffen SS, and Kdr. Harald von Hirschfeld who commanded a battalion responsible for a large-scale massacre of prisoners of war.
Last month, Police Chief Mike Reese suspended Kruger for 80 hours without pay and ordered him to take “Tools for Tolerance” training, because he erected the memorial plaques while employed by the Police Bureau. The internal affairs inquiry found Kruger brought “discredit and disgrace upon the Bureau and the City,” when He nailed the “memorial plaques” to a tree on the east side of Rocky Butte Park sometime between 1999 and 2001. Kruger called the memorial “Ehrenbaum” or “Honor Tree.”
The state bar has received Seaver’s complaint and will begin an initial review, said Kateri Walsh, bar spokeswoman.