By Noah Haglund and Scott North Herald Writers
EVERETT — Criminal investigation records add weight to claims that the man who runs the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties discouraged a woman he supervises from telling police about an alleged sexually motivated assault by Snohomish County’s former planning director.
The documents contain details of the group’s close ties with Snohomish County officials, including the woman telling investigators that Master Builders executive director Sam Anderson told her he wanted to deal with the incident “in-house” and spoke of possibly making a phone call to Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon to “work it out.”
The police reports do not show if King County detectives examined whether laws were broken when people urged the woman not to make a police report, or how much effort police made to determine the extent and nature of contact between the Master Builders and Snohomish County officials following the incident.
Craig Ladiser, 59, was fired last summer and is awaiting trial in July on charges of indecent exposure and fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation.
He is accused of pressing his bare genitals against the woman’s leg during the Master Builders’ annual golf tournament on June 24, 2009. The woman is a lobbyist for the Bellevue-based industry group. Ladiser has said he was drunk and has no memory of what happened that afternoon.
With the criminal case pending against Ladiser, County Councilman Dave Somers said it’s too early to call for a formal investigation into whether the county had any role in influencing how the matter was handled.
Somers, however, said the latest information emphasizes the need to revisit the county’s conflict-of-interest policies. That would apply not just to the planning department and the building industry, but to all county departments and outside groups they work with professionally.
“It’s certainly inviting trouble and inviting conflict of interest — not well thought out,” he said.
‘We’ll work it out’
The documents, released Monday in response to a public records request by The Herald, include police reports and transcripts of witness interviews assembled as the King County Sheriff’s Office investigated whether Ladiser engaged in criminal misconduct at the golf course.
Reardon and Anderson have said they’ve never discussed Ladiser’s alleged misconduct with each other or directed how to handle what eventually became a criminal case.
Still, the police reports corroborate what Ladiser reportedly told the county’s human resources manager last summer, a few weeks after the golf course incident, that the Master Builders attempted to intercede on his behalf.
Human Resources director Bridget Clawson took notes of a conversation she had with Ladiser last July. Her notes, obtained by The Herald late last month, quote Ladiser as saying he spoke with Anderson and Mike Pattison, who most often represents the Master Builders in dealings with the county.
Ladiser told Clawson, according to the notes, that the Master Builders did not want him to resign as the county’s planning boss. He also reportedly told her that Master Builders officials considered orchestrating some sort of reconciliation meeting between him and the woman, who he’d known professionally for about five years.
Pattison told detectives Anderson “instructed” him to call Ladiser and tell him the Master Builders “expected a written apology from him and that he seek counseling.”
During that phone call Ladiser said he had no recollection of what happened on the golf course. The day of the incident, however, Pattison said Ladiser bragged about what happened and appeared “smug,” documents show.
The woman told King County detectives that in the weeks after the incident her bosses didn’t seem to share her level of concern about what happened. Anderson and others at the Master Builders urged her to not press for sanctions against Ladiser, the woman told King County investigators in October.
Among other things, the woman said she had been told by Anderson that a better outcome would be for her to arrange a meeting with Ladiser, perhaps over lunch, to discuss what had happened.
He also told the woman he wanted to handle the situation by chatting with Reardon, the documents say.
“So Sam is like ‘Oh I’ll just call Reardon and we’ll work it out,’” the woman is quoted in a police transcript. “And I’m like that’s weird. Like I don’t think that’s how this should work.”
Anderson did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Woman feared for her job
Five days after the incident, and following the phone call from Pattison, Ladiser sent the woman an e-mail promising to resign. Several days later the woman wanted to know why he was still on the county payroll and had entered an in-patient alcohol treatment program.
The woman told detectives her bosses were unhappy when she wrote a formal complaint about Ladiser’s conduct and hand-delivered it to Reardon’s office on July 8.
Officials in Reardon’s office have repeatedly said that was the first they heard about what happened on the golf course.
County spokesman Christopher Schwarzen, in an e-mail Tuesday, said Reardon again said that the Master Builders never contacted his office to report the incident.
“If her statement is accurate, and he has no reason to believe it isn’t, then this signals that Master Builders never intended to contact this office to report the incident and that she felt she had to be the one to report the incident to us,” Schwarzen wrote.
The woman on July 9 spoke with Mark Soine, former deputy executive under Reardon.
Soine had Clawson listen in, and take notes, on his side of that conversation.
Soine told the woman it would be wrong for anyone to pressure her not to tell authorities and also told her that Ladiser may admit what he did and resign. “That may put an end to the story. What is your feeling about that?” Soine asked the woman, according to Clawson’s notes.
The woman told police that fear of losing her job was the biggest reason she delayed going forward to authorities.
Detectives asked the woman if anybody other than Anderson discouraged her from filing a police report.
“There’s been a lot of inferring,” she told investigators, “but no one said it explicitly. Lots of inferring.” The investigators didn’t follow up on her response.
The woman didn’t involve police until four months after the incident.
During that time she received counselling, met with a civil attorney and obtained a court order barring Ladiser from coming near her. She sought the no contact order after spotting a man she believed to be Ladiser walking near her home.
The Herald requested documents from the police investigation in March after Ladiser was charged. In April, Ladiser’s attorney, Ralph Hurvitz of Seattle, sought an injunction to prevent the records’ release until after Ladiser’s trial.
King County Superior Court Judge Susan Craighead on May 27 denied the injunction and ordered the documents’ release.
The police documents describe the golf tournament as a booze-soaked affair, with Ladiser’s greens fees paid by the Builders. The documents describe Ladiser chugging tequila straight from the bottle and bragging about having access to cocaine. The records include a photograph, taken by a Master Builders employee, of Ladiser asleep in his car outside the golf course clubhouse.
Witness accounts in the newly released documents give a similar version of the events on the golf course as those of the woman who accused Ladiser of assault.
The King County sheriff’s criminal investigation is at odds with some conclusions reached by an outside labor attorney Reardon’s office hired to conduct an employee investigation.
The police determined Ladiser allegedly exposed himself not only to the woman, but also to another golfer in her cart. The man, a builder, told detectives he saw Ladiser holding his penis, moving his pelvis and making groaning noises, apparently simulating a sexual act.
That would be a separate offense, if the man wanted to file his own complaint against Ladiser. He declined.
“I do not wish to be a victim but I will assist with prosecution,” he said in a statement to police.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, firstname.lastname@example.org.