By Amy Daybert and Eric Stevick Herald Writers
GRANITE FALLS — Former Police Chief Tony Domish failed to tell prosecutors about several criminal cases, including a domestic assault where an infant was hospitalized and a robbery that ended in a stabbing, according to a Snohomish County sheriff’s report released Friday.
That meant most of the cases, some dating back to 2007, were never pursued, according to the report.
That’s one of a laundry list of allegations against the police chief who resigned in September.
Domish also was investigated for ignoring complaints about his police department, having naked pictures of women on his work computer and refusing to leave his offices when placed on administrative leave, according to the more than 1,900 pages of the report obtained by The Herald under state open records laws.
In all, sheriff’s Sgt. Gregg Rinta investigated 15 allegations that, if proven true, could have been violations of law as well as policies and procedures for the Granite Falls Police Department. During his investigation, Rinta contacted Domish to set up an interview, but the former chief kept postponing and the talk never occurred.
Many of the allegations came from Mayor Haroon Saleem, who had a contentious relationship with Domish. Others came from people who live in the community.
Sheriff’s deputies discovered the abandoned criminal cases that were sitting unfinished in Domish’s office.
Domish said Friday many of the allegations in Rinta’s report are flat untrue and he has explanations for the others. He also said he hasn’t yet had a chance to review the full report.
Domish was placed on administrative leave April 23 and resigned as part of a settlement agreement approved Sept. 15 by the City Council on a 3-1 vote.
“I want to be very clear that I didn’t take the settlement offer because of any concerns I had with the investigation,” Domish said. “The bottom line is I didn’t want to work for (the mayor) and it was a very, very difficult decision to make.”
He said he believes the council wouldn’t have agreed to the settlement if the allegations had merit.
As part of the settlement, Domish received a severance package of $78,090.11. He is scheduled to be paid nine months of wages from October to June 2011 totaling more than $60,600. He also was paid for unused vacation hours, compensatory time, holidays and sick leave. The city agreed to pick up his medical, dental, retirement and other health and welfare benefits from October through May 2011.
As part of the deal, the city agreed to drop the investigation of Domish that was being conducted for them by the sheriff’s office. The police chief agreed not to pursue a lawsuit against the city.
Saleem signed off on the settlement, although he said he did so reluctantly. “Believe me, I’m on the record that I have been opposed to this settlement right from the beginning. I did not want to give him even a dime,” he said Friday.
Several criminal cases were found in Domish’s office where citations had been issued, but the cases weren’t prosecuted because they had never been forwarded to court. Some of the cases involved shoplifting and teenagers in possession of alcohol. The report doesn’t identify the defendants.
Domish said most of the cases had been resolved and he just hadn’t gone into the files to write, “Case closed.”
One case where the sheriff’s office said Domish was the lead investigator, was a domestic violence assault involving a couple. It ended with an infant injured and taken to a hospital. The report said Domish did not notify Children’s Protective Services, did not take the children into protective custody and did not write a police report. He never forwarded a report to the prosecutor for either the assault allegations or the injuries to the child.
Domish said he believes sheriff’s investigators were referring to a case where he was not the lead investigator. The officer who handled the matter believed the child’s injury was accidental, he said.
In another case, Granite Falls police investigated a robbery and stabbing where the suspect was arrested and booked into jail. The prosecutor’s office asked for the report, but Domish did not follow through and the suspect eventually was released, according to the sheriff’s department. The suspect was later charged in another crime and another prosecutor happened upon the robbery case. It was only then that the suspect pleaded guilty in both cases.
Domish said he remembers receiving correspondence from the prosecutor’s office. He thought the case was resolved.
In some of these cases, evidence was found in Domish’s office that had not been booked properly.
The mayor reportedly told Domish that he had been receiving complaints about heavy-handedness, unnecessary or excessive force and profanity by officers. Saleem reportedly told Domish that he expected the chief to address the concerns because he did not want to micromanage the police department.
The sheriff’s investigator found no record of a complaint log or files on the complaints at the police department or in Domish’s office.
Domish said the mayor did bring complaints to him, but he said he told the mayor to put his concerns in writing.
“That makes it an official complaint. He wouldn’t do it,” Domish said.
A woman told the sheriff’s investigator that she was speechless after a conversation with Domish at the 2009 Police/Firefighter appreciation dinner held by the Granite Falls Eagles. She said that Domish’s talk was critical of firefighters, saying they never do anything and just lie around in their bunks. After the speech, the woman said that she approached Domish. She told him she was offended and he should apologize.
The woman told the investigator that Domish responded by saying, “Ya know, if you were ever driving down the street, I could pull you over for no reason at all? And I could say that you were driving under the influence or have drugs on you? Who do you think they’d believe? You? Me, as chief of police?”
The woman reported the alleged conversation after Saleem took office this year.
Domish said he has always enjoyed a good relationship with city firefighters and denied threatening the woman.
“It’s completely false, absolutely false,” he said. “I would never say that to a citizen.”
A police volunteer told the investigator that she was helping Domish in his office when she observed an e-mail with a photograph of a topless woman. The volunteer made a comment about the picture and the chief got embarrassed.
The sheriff’s department found several images of naked adult women on Domish’s work computer after searching his Internet history. However, it was unable to trace those pictures back to Domish specifically, according to the report.
Domish denied having sexually charged images on his computer: “It’s just silly. I have never had any pornography on my computer.”
Domish said another police department employee recently was disciplined for viewing pornography.
Refused to leave
When he was placed on administrative leave, Domish was given a notice that stated he must turn in his badge, weapon and all city property including keys, cell phones and car. He also was ordered to surrender his computer password. If he wanted to claim his personal possessions he was told to schedule an appointment. Domish, who was the only officer on duty when he received the notice, refused to leave the department and insisted on taking his possessions with him.
After his shift was covered, Domish still refused to leave his office until he had several conversations with members of the police department, the sheriff’s office and his union.
Domish said he was trying to protect sensitive information about an ongoing investigation, including information on his computer.
Andrea Brenneke, Domish’s attorney, said passwords for her client’s computer weren’t turned over to Mayor Saleem because she wanted to ensure that information on the computer was adequately preserved for the investigation.
A sheriff’s lieutenant asked for the password twice and Domish refused both requests, according to the report.
The sheriff’s office wasn’t paid to do the investigation, sheriff’s spokeswoman Rebecca Hover said. Law enforcement agencies often ask outside departments to conduct independent investigations.
She declined to discuss the contents of the report.
“We turned over our investigation to them and it’s their product,” Hover said. “It’s theirs to discuss and analyze.”
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; firstname.lastname@example.org.