The City of Mill Creek has evaluated allegations of misconduct by Police Chief Greg Elwin and decided there was “sufficient” basis for a formal investigation, according to a letter from the Mill Creek Police Officer’s Guild. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

The City of Mill Creek has evaluated allegations of misconduct by Police Chief Greg Elwin and decided there was “sufficient” basis for a formal investigation, according to a letter from the Mill Creek Police Officer’s Guild. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Mill Creek police chief under investigation for misconduct

The police union accused Chief Greg Elwin of “a lack of honesty and integrity.” He’s on paid leave.

MILL CREEK — Police Chief Greg Elwin is under a city investigation for a slew of blistering allegations, including that he associated with criminals, used his position for personal gain, and was “dishonest or disgraceful,” according to city records.

Elwin was placed on paid administrative leave on Jan. 17 after the Mill Creek Police Officer’s Guild informed City Manager Michael Ciaravino that day that the guild had voted no confidence in Elwin, according to documents the city provided to The Daily Herald in response to a public records request.

“There are many reasons for this vote,” the guild stated in a letter to the city manager, “but our overarching concerns include low morale under his leadership, a lack of honesty and integrity, poor management of resources, a lack of care for officer well-being and welfare, a disregard for bargaining rights and retaliation for union involvement, unpredictability in mood and work expectations, and simply being difficult to work with.”

The guild did not cite specific instances of misconduct, but notified the city that examples could be provided, if needed.

Elwin, who has been instructed by the city not to speak publicly about the investigation, did not respond to a phone call and text message seeking comment Tuesday. The misconduct investigation was first made public by the Mill Creek Beacon.

The city evaluated the allegations raised by the guild and notified Elwin on Feb. 6 that there was “sufficient” basis for a formal investigation, according to a letter from Ciaravino to the police chief.

Ciaravino wrote that the investigation would review allegations that Elwin:

■ Knowingly associated “on a personal basis” with people who “demonstrate recurring involvement with violations of state or federal laws or who have a reputation in the community or with the Police Department for present involvement in criminal behavior;”

■ Used his status as the department’s leader for his own benefit, trying to “gain influence or authority for non-department business or activity” and get privileges he otherwise wouldn’t have had;

■ Misused or mismanaged police department resources;

■ Engaged in conduct that was “unbecoming” of the police department. At least one alleged incident involved “moral turpitude,” the letter says, although it does not elaborate;

■ Treated those he oversees or other city employees in a way that was “discourteous, disrespectful or discriminatory” and failed to control his temper;

■ Lied or made “misleading or malicious” statements to the detriment of the department or city;

■ Violated the department’s safety standards and practices.

Ciaravino told Elwin in the letter that he would remain on paid administrative leave until the investigation was done or the city informed him otherwise.

Scott Eastman

Scott Eastman

Scott Eastman, who was deputy chief of police for Mill Creek, has been appointed the department’s acting chief.

The city previously declined to confirm whether the police chief was on administrative leave.

Ciaravino did not immediately respond to a phone call or email Tuesday seeking updates on the status of the probe and Elwin’s employment status. But the city manager warned in the Feb. 6 letter that, depending on the outcome of the investigation, Elwin may face termination or other disciplinary action.

The city manager also instructed the police chief to contact the acting chief to surrender his gun and badge.

Ciaravino told Elwin he’s prohibited from talking to “anyone” concerning the investigation, “other than the investigator, your attorney, health care provider, law enforcement conducting an investigation, or clergyperson.”

The city retained Jennifer Parda-Aldrich, an attorney with Sebris Busto James, to conduct the investigation, Ciaravino said in the letter.

The Bellevue-based firm bills itself as “one of the top firms in Washington state representing employers since 1992 in the areas of labor and employment law representation, and human resources management counseling and training,” according to its website.

Guild President Jesse Mack and Vice President Steve Smith wrote in the Jan. 17 letter to Ciaravino that members had raised their concerns to Elwin “on many occasions” but “seen no meaningful change.”

Mack and Smith added that members fear retaliation from Elwin for the vote of no confidence.

“We expect that you will promptly investigate and take seriously any claims of retaliation, should they occur,” the guild’s leaders told the city manager.

The guild did not respond to a Herald reporter’s inquiries Tuesday.

In the Feb. 6 letter and a follow-up email, Ciaravino warned Elwin not to take any retaliatory actions over the allegations.

Questions about the police chief’s fate are the latest signs of strife in the Snohomish County city of roughly 20,000.

In April 2018, the police chief was one of four high-level city officials who highlighted issues with a past city manager’s behavior. According to a lawsuit that’s been filed against the city, all four of them faced retaliation for the move.

Rebecca Polizzotto

Rebecca Polizzotto

The city cut ties with former City Manager Rebecca Polizzotto in fall 2018 amid allegations that she misused her city credit card and bullied staff. Mill Creek spent nearly $50,0000 on probes that found Polizzotto charged personal expenses on the credit card, manipulated reimbursement files and created a toxic work environment at City Hall. Polizzotto, however, has denied those conclusions, saying she “did not engage in abusive behavior.”

Former city spokeswoman Joni Kirk later alleged in a lawsuit, filed in Snohomish County Superior Court in December, that she was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for reporting the ex-city manager’s misconduct.

Joni Kirk

Joni Kirk

Her lawsuit says that Mill Creek Mayor Pam Pruitt wanted to oust her and the three other “whistleblowers,” including Elwin. Pruitt wrote “negative articles” regarding the four of them that were published in the local press and addressed them “in an antagonistic manner” during meetings, the lawsuit alleges.

The city previously denied Kirk’s claim that she was wrongfully terminated, saying in a past news release that she “showed poor judgment in the handling of an employment situation, including recording a private meeting on her personal cell phone without consent and failing to disclose the recording to the public records officer when records requests were made.”

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Everett
Everett courthouse garage briefly closed for ‘suspicious package’ report

A man drove his car into the Snohomish County Courthouse garage and reported he believed the package was in his car.

High-capacity magazines at The Freedom Shoppe gun store, which was holding a sale in anticipation of new gun control measures, in New Milford, Conn., April 2, 2013. The store is liquidating their stock of weapons expected to be banned. Months after the massacre of 26 people at a school in Newtown, Conn., legislative leaders in the state on Monday announced what they called the most far-reaching gun-legislation package in the country. (Wendy Carlson/The New York Times)
WA high court leaves ban in place for now on high-capacity ammo magazines

Monday’s decision will keep the law in effect until the court hears arguments, possibly this fall, on the bill sponsored by an Edmonds senator.

Firefighters respond to a 911 call Tuesday morning in Mill Creek. (Photo provided by South County Fire)
Mill Creek house fire displaces 3

Firefighters responded to a house fire in the 14100 block of 30th Avenue SE early Tuesday morning. No one was injured.

Alyvia Nguyen, 8, climbs on leaf shaped steps at the new Corcoran Memorial Park playground on Friday, July 12, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Bothell-area park ‘could not be a more fitting dedication’

In 2019, Jim Corcoran donated $1.5 million worth of land to become a public park. He died before he could see it completed.

Cars line up for the Edmonds ferry in Edmonds, Washington on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Ferry line jumpers face a $145 fine — and scorn from other drivers

Law enforcement is on the lookout for line cutters. It’s a “hot-button issue that can lead to something worse.”

Mother charged in Stanwood toddler’s fentanyl overdose death

Morgan Bassett woke up in January 2022 and found her daughter wasn’t breathing. Last week, she was charged with manslaughter.