Former Sultan police chief charged

SULTAN — Former Sultan Police Chief Fred Walser was charged Thursday with providing false information to a public servant, a gross misdemeanor.

Walser, 67, has entered a not guilty plea, said his attorney, John Taylor Hicks of Seattle.

“I’m really disappointed that the city of Sultan is pursuing this after 11 years of dedicated service to the city,” Walser said.

The charge is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine, said Warren Page, a special assigned deputy prosecutor handling the case in Whatcom County.

The complaint was filed in Snohomish County but will be moved to Whatcom County to avoid potential conflicts for local prosecutors and judges who had worked with Walser for years.

Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick on Thursday referred questions about the charges to Whatcom county prosecutors. Those prosecutors on Thursday provided no additional details about the charge against Walser.

Walser has nearly four decades of law enforcement experience and worked for Sultan for nearly 12 years. In May 2007, Walser announced plans to retire. A few weeks later, he was placed on administrative leave.

Walser asked for an investigation by the Washington State Patrol. Other probes were launched by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, a Wenatchee attorney and Everett police.

All of the investigations examined Walser’s handling of public records, employee access to police computers and other management issues at the Sultan Police Department.

The Everett police investigation produced an 800-page report detailing the fallout from a dispute between a Sultan police department civilian employee and her neighbor. The report was forwarded to Whatcom county prosecutors to determine whether anything warranted charges.

Prosecutors had to determine if evidence suggested Walser lied to city officials and others about a Washington State Patrol computer record that showed the Sultan police employee, Caroline Pepperell, apparently used a police database to investigate her neighbor.

Walser allegedly failed to provide the document in a public records request related to the neighborhood dispute, the report said. He later found the document and turned it over to city staff.

Pepperell was fired by the city in September for misusing police computers. Earlier this year, a retired judge ruled Pepperell could be disciplined but not fired, said Mike Subit, her attorney. She has been working for Sultan since March.

In October, Walser filed notice with the city of his intent to sue for $10 million, attorney J.C. Becker said. The matter is still pending.

Before working in Sultan, Walser worked as a State Patrol trooper for nearly 30 years. Now, he is running as a Democrat for the state Senate against incumbent Val Stevens, a Republican. Walser has been a vocal advocate for making safety improvements to U.S. 2.

Walser said Thursday he’s upset that his work with Sultan’s youth and other accomplishments are being overshadowed.

“And it all comes down to this. It’s a shame and I’m very disappointed,” Walser said.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or jholtz@heraldnet.com.

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