County official fired after being accused of lewd act

EVERETT — Snohomish County’s planning director was fired last week after a woman complained that he exposed himself and assaulted her while drunk at a golf tournament hosted by the Master Builder’s Association of King and Snohomish Counties.

Craig Ladiser, 59, denied assaulting the woman but admitted he is an alcoholic and said he can’t remember much of what happened during the June 24 golf tournament.

The director of Planning and Development Services since 2004, Ladiser had been on administrative leave since July 8. That’s when county Executive Aaron Reardon received a letter of complaint about Ladiser’s behavior from the woman, who is an employee of the Master Builder’s Association working on development issues in Snohomish County.

The woman wrote that Ladiser exposed his genitals and rubbed up against her.

Ladiser acknowledged that he likely exposed himself at the golf tournament, according to an internal investigation conducted by the county. In a statement e-mailed to The Herald on Monday, Ladiser said alcohol addiction caused his behavior and he’s seeking treatment.

“I am committed to maintaining my sobriety, and am working day by day to restore the trust of friends and family,” Ladiser said in the statement.

He said he doesn’t intend to try to get his county job back.

The alleged misconduct occurred during Ladiser’s personal time off and the county didn’t know about what happened until the woman sent her letter, said Reardon spokesman Christopher Schwarzen.

Attached to the letter was a copy of a June 29 e-mail Ladiser sent to the woman, apologizing for his actions. Ladiser wrote that he’d “just heard of something that happened.”

“I am seeking counseling immediately and will tender my resignation at the county,” Ladiser wrote. “I have no excuses for the behavior. I am truly sorry.”

Ladiser was on temporary leave at the time dealing with a personal matter when Reardon received the letter of complaint from the woman, Schwarzen said. Ladiser’s leave, which began on June 29, had nothing to do with the June 24 incident at the golf course, Schwarzen said.

Deputy County Executive Mark Soine met with the woman July 9, the day after she wrote the letter, according to documents provided by the county under public disclosure. County officials immediately began an investigation and later hired the Seattle law firm Perkins Coie to help determine what happened.

According to a report from Seattle lawyer Linda Walton, Ladiser was drinking heavily on the day of the golf tournament, before and during the event.

The woman and at least one other person saw Ladiser expose himself, according to the report.

“Mr. Ladiser was very intoxicated,” the report states. “He acted on the spur of the moment out of a drunken impulse.”

Later, according to the report, Ladiser slept in his car at the golf course parking lot, missing a banquet held that evening. Ladiser told investigators that he woke up in his car around 9 p.m. At that point, the last thing he remembered of the day’s event was that he reached for a bottle of tequila that had tipped over on the floor of his golf cart.

County officials received the completed report on Wednesday, Schwarzen said. On Thursday, Soine told Ladiser that he could no longer work for the county.

Ladiser, like other nonunion county employees, worked at the will of the county executive. Reardon has the right to hire and fire those employees as he sees fit, Schwarzen said.

“That’s just not becoming behavior for any county employee,” Schwarzen said of Ladiser’s actions.

The Master Builder’s Association frequently hosts events to which it invites county and city officials from throughout the county, said Sam Anderson, the association’s executive officer.

“We have a great working relationship with the county, and we had a great working relationship with Craig,” Anderson said. “We brought the incident to Aaron (Reardon’s) attention, and he acted promptly and responsibly.”

Ladiser and other county workers are allowed to attend events hosted by the Master Builder’s Association and other organizations, Schwarzen said. In accordance with the county’s policy, Ladiser disclosed to another county official that he planned to attend the Builder’s Cup golf tournament, Schwarzen said.

Ladiser worked for the county between 1986 and 1994. Reardon hired him in 2004 as director of Planning and Development Services.

Ladiser was among the top-paid county workers, making just under $150,000 a year – more than Reardon and other elected officials.

Ladiser’s departure is the latest blow to a department that has been crippled by layoffs. The department, which once employed 240 workers, now employs fewer than 100 people, county Councilman Brian Sullivan said.

“I’m concerned the department could be in disarray without a leader,” Sullivan said.

Planning and Development Services Division Manager Larry Adamson now serves as the department’s acting director. He will continue in that position until a permanent replacement is found, Schwarzen said.

Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422, kkapralos@heraldnet.com.

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