Officer assigned to clean up homeless camps files $10M claim against Seattle

SEATTLE -- The City of Seattle began reviewing a $10 million tort claim filed against the city by one of its own officers. Officer Timothy Gifford’s attorney, Lincoln Beauregard, said pollution in a homeless encampment he was assigned to clean led to his Type II Diabetes diagnosis.

Beauregard filed the tort claim Wednesday on behalf of Gifford and his family. The claim alleged the city negligently exposed Gifford to dangerous man-made toxins called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in January 2019. The encampment was located in Seattle near the area of 1st Avenue South and Denver Street South.

Read Officer Gifford's full claim

Seattle Public Utilities tested the grounds in June 2019, five months after the clean-up, and found high levels of PCBs. The United States Environmental Protection Agency said PCB levels above 1 part per billion are a safety concern. SPU tested a sample from the grounds of the encampment, and results showed PCB levels at 40,300 parts per billion.

According to court documents, at least 59 Seattle city employees may have been exposed to PCB’s at the encampment. Included in the tort claim was an email written by Assistant Chief Adrian Diaz of the Seattle Police Department to city employees, dated July 2, 2019. The email to city workers read, in part, “Testing confirmed the presence of PCBs. It is unknown how long contamination has been present. You are receiving this email because you were identified as a participant of the January 8th remediation.”

At the time the email from Diaz was sent, Beauregard said his client was already feeling “inexplicably ill,” and was diagnosed with Diabetes Type II. Court documents further claimed medical research confirms a connection between PCB exposure and diabetes.

In the claim, Beauregard stated the city was to blame for putting its employees at risk because the homeless encampment should not have been allowed in the first place.

Q13 News contacted the city attorney’s office for comment and was referred to the city’s finances and administrative services department, which handles claims filed against the city.

A representative from the department said they were not able to comment on the claim per policy. Q13 News also awaited response for comment from the Seattle Police Department and the Seattle Police Guild.

Beauregard said he and Gifford were not available for further comment.