On June 5, former Sultan Police Chief Fred Walser pled guilty to a criminal charge stemming from his administrative assistant's misconduct.
Walser admitted he knew about Caroline Pepperell's history of misusing her previous position to investigate neighbors and associates but hired her anyway. Then when she was investigated for doing it while working for the Sultan Police Department, Walser provided false information to investigators. Walser claims, “I had a sheriff’s report in my file that I absolutely forgot about.” But the report from the Everett Police Department (pages 1-9, pages 10-20, and pages 21-31) tells a different story.
Essentially, the evidence shows that Pepperell misused police resources to harass her neighbor, and then in order to keep her on staff, Walser lied to multiple investigative bodies, violated a mayoral order, and filed a false sexual harassment complaint against her replacement.
A brief history is in order.
In August 2005, Gayle Harvie's dogs were poisoned, and one died. Believing Pepperell was involved due to personal history between the two, she began looking into, among other things, whether Pepperell might have accessed Harvie's name inappropriately, using Sultan PD resources.
On March 9, 2006, Snohomish County Detective Steve Clinko met separately with Walser and Pepperell about the poisoning complaint, and he told Walser that Pepperell had, in fact, accessed Harvie's name in the ACCESS computer system in June 2005.
But on May 18, 2006, Walser provided a log -- dated March 9 -- in response to Harvie's records request that showed Pepperell had not accessed Harvie's name (a claim Walser would make many more times), despite Walser being told on the very same day, March 9, that she had.
Walser says he later found the document and turned it over to city staff, but this was only after the investigation of him began, a year later, at which point he told the mayor he had it in the file all along, he had flagged it, and he knew where it was.
Walser's public answer -- "all I did was put a sheriff's report in a file and forgot about it" -- has little credibility, just based on the facts. But the Everett PD report also shows a disturbing pattern of behavior that makes Walser's plea of ignorance seem completely unbelievable. What followed the above events is, perhaps, even more disturbing.
In September 2006 it was deemed necessary to limit Pepperell's use of ACCESS, her abuse of which constituted part of the investigation, during that investigation. Walser resisted from the beginning, saying he couldn't run the department without Pepperell, but a plan was devised to train employee Tami Peavey (who already had been certified to use ACCESS) to take over.
Peavey was trained, but Walser still resisted, and despite Mayor Ben Tolson's orders, Pepperell still had full access in November 2006. He said he couldn't use ACCESS himself, and needed Pepperell to do it (despite also claiming he checked ACCESS himself, to determine that Pepperell had not accessed Harvie's information).
In February 2007, Walser initiated a sexual harassment complaint against Peavey, based on a meeting with three Sultan PD officers. He stated Peavey would not be allowed access to the police department from that day forward.
However, one of those officers, Sean Gillespie, denied being at the event where the alleged harassment took place, denied being in the meeting, denied saying the things Walser attributed to him, and denied knowing anything about the incident. Officer Gillespie filed a grievance with his union over Walser's complaint against Peavey. The allegations against Peavey were officially dropped in March 2007.
After the internal investigation of Walser was announced, in May 2007, Walser tried to convince then-Snohomish County Sheriff Rick Bart to not publicly disclose information regarding the investigation of Pepperell, claiming they should be treated as internal documents, which they were not.
Walser announced his resignation four days later, and city attorneys even helped him draft his resignation letter during the investigation. Yet, he said that when he was placed on administrative leave, a few weeks after, that he was "surprised."
Walser then responded with a $10m lawsuit against the city, maintaining his innocence. He has now dropped both his lawsuit and his plea of innocence, with a plea of guilty -- coming just a few days after filing to run for the 39th Legislative District Senate seat as a Democrat -- which brings with it a $20,000 fine and 240 hours of community service.
We'll have more on this story in the coming weeks. There is, unfortunately, even more. We haven't yet looked at the Whatcom County papers (where he was formally charged, again, due to conflicts of interest), and there's even more in the Everett report, the now-dropped lawsuit, and elsewhere.
Stay tuned, and feel free to read some of the and source documents, and news articles in chronological order, linked in the sidebar.