Investigation of Sultan’s ex-police chief complete

SULTAN — Everett police have finished an investigation focusing on former Sultan Police Chief Fred Walser. Prosecutors outside Snohomish County have been asked to determine whether the discoveries warrant criminal charges.

The investigation focused on Walser’s handling of public records, employee access to police computers and other management issues.

Everett detectives investigated allegations of possible evidence tampering, obstruction, official misconduct and making false statements to a public servant, documents obtained Tuesday show.

“Mr. Walser maintains his complete innocence,” said John Hicks, Walser’s attorney.

The 800-page report was delivered to the city Thursday, Mayor Ben Tolson said.

He would not comment on the report’s findings.

Much of the investigation documented how a dispute between two Sultan-area neighbors expanded to involve the Sultan Police Department. One of the neighbors had worked for the police department and was fired in September for alleged misuse of police computers.

While still a police employee, that person allegedly used the state’s criminal records database to check on her neighbor. The neighbor filed a public records request, seeking proof. Walser was accused of deliberately mishandling the records request and misleading state and local investigators, documents show.

Sultan city officials asked Everett police to investigate Walser and the police department he managed in order to avoid a conflict of interest.

Other investigations connected to the case were made by the Washington State Patrol, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and a Wenatchee attorney hired by the city.

The report documents that all of the allegations are connected to a dispute between an employee that Walser supervised and her neighbor, who suspects the former police department worker in the poisoning death of her dog.

The Everett police report documents that Walser, 67, didn’t restrict the employee’s access to the police database after the State Patrol investigation into her computer use began. Walser told city officials the employee’s use was restricted and she was only allowed to use the system under supervision, documents said.

Walser also allegedly failed to provide information that should have been released in a public records request involving the neighbors’ dispute, the report said. Walser later found the document and turned it over to city staff.

Prosecutors have been asked to determine whether Walser lied to city officials and others about the document, a State Patrol computer record that shows the former Sultan police employee apparently using police databases to investigate her neighbor.

Police also investigated management issues, including how Walser instructed an officer to file for three hours of overtime.

In the midst of the controversy, Walser in May announced plans to retire. A few weeks later he was placed on administrative leave.

Walser tried to delay his resignation until after the investigations were complete. City officials refused. Walser now is suing the city for $10 million.

Walser has said he may consider a 2008 run as a Democrat against Republican state Sen. Val Stevens of Arlington.

The Everett police report is being reviewed by Whatcom County prosecutors to avoid a potential conflict of interest, said Joan Cavagnaro, Snohomish County’s chief deputy prosecutor.

“My boss and (former) chief Walser have had a close working relationship for the years he was Sultan police chief,” Cavagnaro said of Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Janice Ellis.

Cavagnaro said she has no idea when the Whatcom County prosecutor will decide whether criminal charges are warranted.

Whatcom county officials did not immediately return phone calls.

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

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