SEATTLE — Snohomish County’s former planning director must keep out of trouble for two years or he could spend significant time in jail for last year’s drunken assault on a woman at a Redmond golf course.
A judge handed Craig Ladiser a one-year suspended sentence Friday afternoon, as the woman who was the victim of his actions listened to the hearing by conference call.
Ladiser and his attorney blamed alcoholism for his behavior. They told the judge he sought treatment long before being ordered to do so. Public humiliation had already served as punishment to Ladiser and his family, they said, as had the loss of his powerful job.
“My (decision) to go into alcohol treatment was intentional, deliberate,” Ladiser said in a soft voice during a short statement to the judge. “The sentence that was put together was correct, I believe.”
King County Superior Court Judge Joan DuBuque imposed the sentence. It requires Ladiser to submit quarterly reports to the court on his treatment for alcoholism. If he gets in trouble during the next two years, he could be ordered to serve his suspended sentences of one year for the assault and three months for indecent exposure.
He cannot have contact with the victim, who within weeks of the assault had a protection order issued against him.
The hearing followed Ladiser’s Aug. 17 guilty plea to one count each of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation and indecent exposure. Both are misdemeanors. The offenses potentially carried up to a year in the county jail.
Ladiser entered a so-called Alford plea, meaning he was not admitting guilt but acknowledging a jury would likely convict him as charged. The charges stem from Ladiser exposing himself and rubbing his bare genitals against the woman’s leg during a June 2009 golf tournament.
Ladiser has maintained he was too intoxicated to remember what happened.
King County senior deputy prosecuting attorney Sean O’Donnell said during Friday’s hearing, and again afterward, that Ladiser has “used alcohol as an excuse.”
“He abused a position of trust,” O’Donnell said. “He wouldn’t have done that to his boss.”
The prosecutor praised Ladiser’s victim as an “incredibly brave young woman.”
“She wrestled with what to do, whether to report it,” he said. “He was a person of significant stature.”
The woman Ladiser assaulted is a building-industry lobbyist. The golf tournament was hosted by her employer, the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties. Ladiser was playing as a guest of the builders group.
The aftermath created a chain of public-image problems for Reardon and contributed to the resignation this year of two high-level officials in his administration, including his former deputy.
Reardon’s office has claimed it supplied “the underpinnings” for the criminal case against Ladiser. In reality, public records show that King County sheriff’s detectives built their case independently through numerous interviews with witnesses, and did so only after the woman brought a criminal complaint.
After Ladiser’s departure, Snohomish County planning department remained without a permanent director for a year. The management implosion was another blow to morale, coming after waves of layoffs that cut staffing to about half of peak levels from a few years ago.
Last month, the county hired Stevens County land services director Clay White to take Ladiser’s job. White was scheduled to begin this month.
When Reardon hired Ladiser in 2004, the planning boss had already been scrutinized for his treatment of a female colleague at a job in Bothell in the 1980s. He resigned his position as assistant public works director in 1985 after a woman who worked as the department’s receptionist and secretary quit her job, complaining about his repeated sexual advances, city records show. Bothell’s investigation concluded Ladiser engaged in improper behavior for a supervisor but stopped short of deciding it was sexual harassment.
In August 2005, Ladiser’s demeanor at work raised questions. One of Reardon’s top advisers wrote to confront him about reports that he slurred his speech, had trouble fixing his gaze and twitched involuntarily.
“These behaviors are undermining the confidence staff, council and the Executive Office have in your ability to continue in your role,” a memo read.
Ladiser tested negative for illegal drugs during that same month, human resources director Bridget Clawson said in a signed statement that is part of the county’s personnel records on Ladiser.
During Friday’s hearing Ladiser’s attorney, Ralph Hurvitz of Seattle did much of the talking. Ladiser moved to Eastern Washington largely because of the publicity his case received, Hurvitz said.
Hurvitz told the judge his client is now 60 with no realistic chance to resume his career. That, he said, is already significant punishment.
“His work life is finished,” Hurvitz said.