Victim of assault by former official won’t sue county

EVERETT — Snohomish County will face no lawsuit over the drunken sexual assault on a woman by its former planning director on a golf course three years ago.

The Seattle woman who was attacked, a building-industry lobbyist, had until late this summer to file a suit against the county. She recently decided against it, her attorney, Erika Nusser of the Seattle law firm Terrell Marshall Daudt &Willie PLLC, said Thursday.

Last year, the assault victim filed a $250,000 damage claim against the county, a precursor to a lawsuit. The woman was working for the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties when she was assaulted. The Herald is not naming her.

The assault occurred at a golf tournament the Master Builders hosted in Redmond on June 24, 2009. Craig Ladiser, the county planning director at the time, later was convicted of one count each of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation and indecent exposure.

County Executive Aaron Reardon had hired Ladiser in 2004. In the mid-1980s, Ladiser resigned from a management job with the city of Bothell after he was investigated for sexually inappropriate workplace comments to a woman he supervised.

The potential lawsuit over Ladiser’s misconduct would have focused in part on three top managers under Reardon, records show. They include Brian Parry, an executive director who still oversees the planning department, former county Deputy Executive Mark Soine and the county’s former harassment investigator, Mark Knudsen. Soine and Knudsen both resigned in 2010.

“Snohomish County, in particular, Mark Soine, Brian Parry and Mark Knudsen, knew that Mr. Ladiser had a history of substance abuse and sexual harassment, and that Mr. Ladiser’s Planning Department was overrun with complaints regarding his propensity for drinking and engaging in sexually inappropriate conduct,” a letter submitted in support of the claim said. “Snohomish County knew, but failed to take any action before Mr. Ladiser sexually assaulted (the woman) while acting as the county’s representative at the golf tournament.”

Ladiser took the afternoon off work to attend the golf tournament, calling it “stakeholder relations.” His $130 entry fee was covered by the builders.

Ladiser drank heavily. While out on the course, he exposed himself and rubbed his bare genitals against the woman’s leg. Reardon’s office took nearly two months to fire Ladiser.

The decision not to pursue a lawsuit makes it less likely there will be a complete accounting of the county’s handling of the case.

Reardon’s office has maintained that he and others didn’t know about the golf course assault for weeks.

That contradicts notes released by the county nearly a year later that showed county officials were quickly aware that a leader of the Master Builders wanted to keep Ladiser in his job and was discouraging the woman from reporting what happened to police. The notes also record Ladiser early on telling Parry about what happened on the golf course — something Parry has denied.

Phone records have since surfaced suggesting county leaders recognized there was a serious problem. The day Ladiser went on leave, Parry first called a Master Builders employee, then spent nearly two hours on the phone conferring with Soine, who was in Arizona on vacation. Those calls were followed up by conversations with Reardon and Ladiser.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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