Axios Seattle

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πŸ₯³ It's Friday β€” we made it.

Today's weather: Cloudy, then becoming sunny, with a high near 80.

πŸ€ Situational awareness: The Seattle Storm beat the Washington Mystics 86–83 in Game 1 of the WNBA playoffs matchup behind Jewel Loyd's late go-ahead shot.

Today's newsletter is 963 words β€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Sheriff's office investigating Seattle officials' missing texts

Image of former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan with ex-police chief Carmen Best cheering during a Seattle Storms basketball game.

Then-Mayor Jenny Durkan, right, and Police chief Carmen Best, cheered for the Seattle Storm at a game in 2018. Photo: Genna Martin/ Getty Images

The King County Sheriff's Office is investigating whether former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, ex-police chief Carmen Best or others broke the law when thousands of potentially key text messages exchanged during the city's 2020 racial justice protests were deleted from their city-issued phones.

Driving the news: The Sheriff's Office opened the probe July 28 at the request of King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, his spokesperson said in an email to Axios on Thursday.

What they're saying: "The case had never been referred to us, and typically we don't ask for an investigation to be conducted," Satterberg said in a statement to Axios on Thursday.

  • "But in recent weeks and months, I heard from people in the community that this matter was important to them and I considered it my responsibility to make this request to the Sheriff before the end of my term."

Separately, a Sheriff's Office spokesperson told Axios in an email Thursday the agency was "in the early stages of reviewing this matter."

  • "We look forward to sharing periodic updates as appropriate," the spokesperson added.

Why it matters: Anyone who willfully destroys or conceals a public record is guilty of a felony in Washington.

  • Until Satterberg did so, city, county and state officials had avoided calling for or opening a criminal probe into the missing text messages.
  • The text messages are public records required to be kept under state law and could have served as possible evidence in multiple pending lawsuits against the city over its handling of the 2020 protests.

The other side: Durkan has said she accidentally dropped her phone into salt water and denied setting her replacement phone to automatically delete messages.

  • Best testified in a deposition earlier this year that she periodically deleted texts in bulk from her city-issued phone after independently deciding the messages didn't contain significant information that would require them to be saved.

Read the full story.

2. Allegations mount against ex-CEO Dan Price

A man in a green outershirt over a white shirt, and shoulder-length brown hair, on stage.

Dan Price speaks onstage during the 2015 Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas. Photo: FilmMagic/contributor/Getty Images

Dan Price, a former Seattle CEO who made headlines worldwide by raising his employees' salary to a minimum of $70,000, has been accused of assaulting multiple women β€” and now, one of the allegations includes rape.

Driving the news: The New York Times published a bombshell report Thursday in which a woman accused Price of raping her while she was under the influence of drugs.

  • Police have referred the case to prosecutors, but charges had yet to be filed as of Thursday, per the Times.

Catch up quick: On Wednesday, the day before the Times' story was published, Price abruptly resigned as CEO of Gravity Payments, the Seattle-based credit-card processing company he founded with his brother in 2004.

  • Price wrote the same day on Twitter that he needed to focus on fighting what he called "false allegations."
  • In a statement to the Times, Price said he "never physically or sexually abused anyone."
  • Price didn't respond to Axios' attempts to contact him Thursday.

Context: Price's resignation and the allegations of rape and assault follow years of internet fame and media fanfare β€” where he gradually built an esteemed reputation as a poster child for corporate social responsibility.

  • However, he's been accused of mistreating women before.

Timeline of accusations.

πŸ“ž The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24/7 via 1-800-656-4673 or online chat. Learn more at RAINN.org.

3. Morning Buzz: Smash burgers and crimefighting

Illustration of a retro diner style sign that says "The Morning Buzz."

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

πŸ” Former "Top Chef" contestant Shota Kakajima is serving his spin on a smash burger at Redhook Brewlab in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, beside his fried chicken eatery, Taku. (Eater Seattle)

🚨 Several local agencies announced a collaborative effort, the Regional Violent Crime Reduction Unit, to respond to the increase in violent crime and gun-related incidents in Snohomish County. (Q13)

🏈 Seattle Seahawks fans are considered the fifth-moodiest across the National Football League, a new list from the Action Network shows.(KIRO 7)

4. Starbucks must reinstate fired union activists

Demonstrators and supporters picket outside of Starbucks Coffee to demand better working conditions and unionization on Aug. 12 in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Demonstrators and supporters picket outside of Starbucks Coffee to demand better working conditions and unionization on Aug. 12 in Brookline, Massachusetts. Photo: Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A federal judge Thursday ordered Starbucks to reinstate seven baristas in Memphis, Tennessee, who were fired earlier this year after speaking with local media about their union campaign.

Why it matters: Seattle-based Starbucks has come out against labor movements in the country, including the 220+ stores that have voted to join the national union Starbucks Workers United, Axios' Shawna Chen writes. The company has faced multiple allegations of illegally interfering with workers' rights.

Details: Starbucks denied that the firings were related to unionization activities, but the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a legal motion challenging the company's actions.

  • Starbucks must reinstate the employees to their jobs within five days of the order, the judge ruled Thursday.

What they're saying: "Today's federal court decision ... is a crucial step in ensuring that these workers, and all Starbucks workers, can freely exercise their right to join together to improve their working conditions and form a union," said NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo in a statement.

Go deeper.

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5. Chicago's WNDR Museum expanding to Seattle

A visitor to the WNDR Museum in Chicago immerses herself in an art exhibit of mirrors.

Yayoi Kusama's "Infinity Mirror Room" in Chicago. Photo courtesy of WNDR Museum

WNDR Museum β€” Chicago's Instagram-friendly, pop-up art gallery β€” is set to open in Seattle this winter.

The latest: WNDR officials announced Thursday they’d selected Seattle β€” along with San Diego and Boston β€” as the first of its expansion locations, with more cities expected in the future.

  • WNDR plans to occupy a space at 906 Alaskan Way near the newly designed Waterfront Park at Pier 62.

What they're saying: "As the home of Chihuly, Amazon and Microsoft, Seattle thrives with a young and diverse community who is hungry to engage with art and technology," Ryan Kunkel, president of WNDR Global, told Axios in an email Thursday.

Background: Launched in Chicago in 2018, WNDR aims to reimagine the traditional museum experience with hands-on interactive and immersive exhibits from local and global artists, collectives and studios.

  • Current Chicago exhibits include the "Infinity Mirror Room" by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, as well works by Keith Haring and Alex Israel placed "in conversation with thought-provoking, interactive technologies," per its website.

Share this with a museum lover.

🎨 Lewis likes a good art museum.

πŸ’€ Melissa is desperately in need of a nap.

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