By Scott North and Noah Haglund Herald Writers
EVERETT — Snohomish County’s former planning director Craig Ladiser was charged with sexually motivated assault Friday for a drunken incident last summer while playing as the guest of area builders in a golf tournament.
A King County Sheriff’s Office investigation found that Ladiser, 59, exposed his penis and rubbed himself against the leg of a woman who works as a building industry lobbyist.
He’s scheduled to be arraigned Monday in King County Superior Court on one count each of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation and indecent exposure.
Both are misdemeanors that carry possible jail time.
“We are pleased that Mr. Ladiser is being held accountable for his actions and we are pleased that the charges that are being brought include assault,” said Beth Terrell, the woman’s Seattle attorney.
Ladiser did more than drop his pants and engage in lewd conduct, “he sexually assaulted her,” Terrell said.
Ladiser was fired last summer from his $150,000-a-year job. He’s since moved to Eastern Washington. He declined to talk with detectives from the King County Sheriff’s Office, according to court papers.
King County prosecutors spent two months considering the detectives’ investigation into what Ladiser did on June 24 at the Golf Club at Redmond Ridge. He’d been drinking heavily, and the incident occurred while people were joking about the golf tees they were using.
The police investigation began months later, on Oct. 26, after the woman formally reported what had happened.
The woman told detectives she “felt she was pressured into not reporting this to the police right away,” King County deputy prosecutor Carol Spoor said in court papers.
The woman works for the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties. She told her bosses about what had happened while still on the golf course, records show.
Within days of the incident she wrote officials working for Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon.
Before she did that, a remorseful Ladiser wrote her an e-mail promising to resign.
Instead, Ladiser talked with Brian Parry, one of Reardon’s executive directors. Ladiser then took personal leave so he could seek treatment for alcohol abuse.
The woman “had been strongly encouraged not to call police, that this would be investigated internally,” Spoor wrote.
In her affidavit, the prosecutor noted that Reardon’s office launched an investigation. Dan Donohoe, King County prosecutor’s spokesman, on Friday said his office had no information on who may have made the woman feel she was discouraged to call police.
Parry, who managed Ladiser in the executive’s office chain of command, said nobody in Reardon’s administration discouraged her from talking to police.
“That statement is certainly not about anybody here,” Parry said Friday. “There’s certainly nobody here who said that to her.”
Parry said King County detectives called the executive’s office to ask for a copy of the county’s own investigative report about Ladiser’s conduct on the golf course. To his knowledge, that was detectives’ only contact with the administration, he said.
Mike Pattison, a government-affairs manager with the Master Builders Association, was on the golf course at the time of the incident, but said he was in a different area and wasn’t a direct witness.
Pattison said he was personally unaware of anybody discouraging the victim from filing a police report. The Master Builders couldn’t say anything without further details about the allegations.
“Not knowing any more than that, we wouldn’t be able to comment,” he said. “We fully support the victim in this matter.”
Pattison said he once dealt with Ladiser frequently as a “professional acquaintance,” but hadn’t talked him since the Monday after the golf course incident. It was his job that day to tell Ladiser that a Master Builders employee had accused him of assault.
“It was my duty to inform him of the situation, and that was the last I ever spoke to him,” Pattison said. “Craig has disappeared from the radar screen. I have not (heard), nor do I expect to hear from him ever again.”
In September, a King County judge ruled there was sufficient evidence to grant the woman a protection order based on allegations of sexual assault by Ladiser. She testified under oath about what happened when Ladiser challenged the order.
In court pleadings, Ladiser’s attorney conceded that the exposure occurred, but said there was no physical contact or sexual motivation.
To support the argument, Ladiser’s lawyer presented the results of an investigation conducted by another attorney — hired by Snohomish County — who suggested sexual contact may not have happened. That lawyer’s investigation cost Snohomish County taxpayers $12,000.
County officials cited the report’s findings about Ladiser’s drunken misconduct as grounds to fire him from his county job.
Ladiser’s actions have focused attention on how sexual harassment complaints have been investigated by managers in Reardon’s office. The revelations have already led to the resignation of the county’s equal employment opportunity investigator and an apology from Reardon’s second-in-command, Mark Soine.
Ladiser and some of his staff were the focus of repeated sexual harassment complaints in Snohomish County. He also resigned from a management job with the city of Bothell in the mid-1980s after he was investigated for sexually inappropriate workplace comments involving a woman he supervised.
That information was discovered by Terrell in a public-records request she made with Bothell on behalf of the woman Ladiser is now charged with assaulting.
“We are looking to see whether this was indeed an isolated incident and finding that it was not,” Terrell said.
Ladiser worked for Bothell for about two years, becoming the city’s assistant public works director. He resigned in 1985 after a woman who worked as the department’s receptionist and secretary quit her job of nearly eight years complaining about his repeated sexual advances, city records show.
Among other things, an investigation found that Ladiser pressured the woman for sex and repeatedly asked her to remove her blouse. She said he retaliated with harassment when she rebuffed his advances.
That investigation concluded Ladiser engaged in improper behavior for a supervisor but stopped short of deciding it was sexual harassment. Ladiser resigned from the job prior to receiving an employee evaluation.
After Bothell, Ladiser went to work as a Snohomish County planner from 1986 to 1994. Then he spent 10 years in Seattle. Officials there said they had no documented complaints on file about his conduct. Ladiser returned to Snohomish County in January 2004 when Reardon, who was newly elected, hired him as county planning director.