This just in from Tim Connor last night.

Ron the Cop


Dear all:

I received the attached (pdf) letter from Randy Bietel of the Washington State Bar Association in my mail this afternoon reporting on the results of his investigation into my July 20, 2007 grievance against Spokesman-Review lawyer Duane Swinton and the Witherspoon Kelley firm. I’m disheartened by the finding but am making it public in fairness to Mr. Swinton and his employers and for those of you who are interested in how the WSBA does its work.I do plan to appeal the decision which, I think is deeply flawed in several respects. For example, I think I and all the newspaper’s other readers were entitled to accept as authoritative the Cowles corporate structure that was published by the newspaper in March of 2004 that described River Park Square as a “separate company” within the Cowles-owned enterprises that separated its publishing and broadcast (journalism) entities from the RPS project. Mr. Bietel, after interviewing Mr. Swinton, Betsy Cowles and Stacey Cowles, disagrees. They told him it’s all one shop. Mr. Bietel accepts that.

It’s true that the inner workings of the ethical codes are a bit gnarly and I certainly knew that when I filed the complaint. But I felt confident based on my earlier reporting (See Swinton v. Swinton, as part of “The Verdict” package at that both the paper’s publisher and editor were correct when they publicly stated that Mr. Swinton had a conflict of interest in his representations. I still think that’s true, and that the conflict can be found not just in journalism ethics but in the applicable professional rules, including those that were the basis for my grievance last year.

Of course, the larger irony here is that the heart of the newspaper’s argument that it can operate in accordance with standard journalism ethics and principles in Spokane is that the journalists can report on the Cowles family’s business enterprises without fear or favor. But Mr. Swinton’s extraordinary role as the newspaper’s First Amendment advocate, and simultaneous and well-documented efforts to keep from the public important information about the family’s River Park Square dealings with the City of Spokane and other public entities destroyed any credence in that objective. Even the Washington News Council, whose work I’ve heavily criticized, recommended that the newspaper find another law firm. S-R editor Steve Smith rejected that recommendation in a column that appeared May 13, 2007.

I have other problems with Mr. Bietel’s findings and reasoning, but I’ll lay those out in more detail later, when I file the appeal.
Tim Connor


WSBA Letter to Connor

Cowles Co Organizational Chart

Swinton v Swinton as part of “The Verdict” report at Camas Magazine


S-R Editor Steve Smith responds to WSBA ruling supplied by Tim Connor

It would be refreshing for once a man of Mr. Smith’s position could refrain from labeling those who exercise their right to ask probative questions to hold their government accountable as, ” . . . loopy conspiracy theories perpetuated by Connor and his fellow travelers.” I’m in the process of replying to a similar name calling email I received from the new S-R Ombudsman. I don’t think the issue with US Attorney Jim McDevitt is as baselss as Mr. Smith would have people believe. I will send it out the reply tomorrow and post at the FOF Blog.

Interesting though Mr. Smith confirms the S-R is seeking documents that the City is now holding and is using outside counsel to obtain. These are more than likely the Lewis documents that I challenged S-R Reporter Jonathan Brunt to seek. It was expected the City Attorney would block their release. It will be interesting to see how vigorously the S-R will pursue these documents.

Ron the Cop

Friends of Mark Fuhrman Blog


Swinton cleared of conflict of interest

Posted by Steven A. Smith | 23 Apr 5:24 PM | Comments (0)

Good afternoon,

Thanks to Tim Connor, who blanketed the western world with an e-mail announcing the decision (and vowing to appeal), we know this afternoon that Connor’s conflict-of-interest, unethical conduct charge against SR lawyer Duane Swinton has been dismissed by the Washington State Bar Association Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

We’ll be working up a news story on the decision and will post the relevant documents later this afternoon.

The decision is not even close and it supports the conclusion of the Washington News Council (in its audit last year) that there is a distinction between legal conflict-of-interest and journalistic conflicts.

And, without saying “I told you so,” I believe it confirms my own view that the complaint was merely another baseless extension of the loopy conspiracy theories perpetrated by Connor and his fellow travelers.

This bunch will do everything they can to perpetuate the RPS debate until the day Betsy Cowles is publicly executed on the streets of Spokane — by Connor, Shook and their goofy gang. Anything short of Cowles blood will not satisfy.

Readers of this blog will remember that the News Council did recommend that the newsroom find another attorney to represent the newsroom’s interests, that our use of Swinton and his firm would always present, at the least, the appearance of a conflict.

I rejected that recommendation at the time, saying Swinton’s abilities as a First Amendment lawyer are unmatched locally and retaining an out-of-region lawyer would put the newspaper and newsroom at legal risk.

I still believe that.

However, as I said then, we continue to take all RPS-related issues to outside counsel.

Currently we have retained westside attorney Bill Holt to represent the newsroom in its battle for previously unreleased RPS legal documents now in the hands of city officials.

That request, likely to be denied by an always secretive city, will lead us to take additional and protracted legal action, all of which will be handled by Holt.

The RPS conspiracy gang has filed other complaints against other RPS players and institutions. Connor and crew filed a complaint with the U.S. Attorney General against U.S. Attorney James McDevitt. That complaint is just as baseless as the complaint lodged against Swinton.

Expect the AG to dismiss it sometime soon.

And, count on it, the folks behind the complaint will simply lodge another appeal and drag this out, seemingly forever.



Tim Connor shares these additional comments:

Ron, thanks for sharing this and I’m not being facetious. A plain reading of Mr. Beitel’s long letter would reveal there are no issues of fact involved. None. It comes down to a single technical question,( at least in his mind.) The question is whether Cowles Company and River Park Square LLC “be treated as separate entities for the purpose of conflict of interest.” He says no, I say yes, and base my view on, among other things, an extensive interview with a UW law professor, Thomas Andrews, who is a member of the state bar disciplinary committee. I reported Mr. Andrews opinion in my piece Swinton v. Swinton which is part of the reporting package “The Verdict” at Mr. Andrews will obviously have to recuse himself if my appeal reaches his panel. I disagree with Beitel’s analysis but I also trust people who follow this issue can see that there is duplicity here on the part of the family and Mr. Smith. You can’t assert your independence from Cowles interests and then turn around and protect the lawyer by vowing there’s no conflict of interest here because it’s all Cowles Company and Swinton, at all times, was acting with the blessing of the Cowleses. That would mean he was acting with the family’s blessing when he was drafting confidentiality agreements to compel agencies to withhold public records from journalists. I don’t doubt that he was acting with the family’s blessing, but they can’t have it both ways in terms of saying that the paper is institutionally separate from RPS and the other Cowles company business interest. Indeed, Beitel’s construction boils down to the paper being a brazen instrument of the Cowleses commercial (and political) interests. Is anybody in the tower really so proud of that?