Romantic interest got ex-police chief in trouble

SNOHOMISH – A former Snohomish police chief was placed on leave in December after sending computer messages to an officer he supervised, professing romantic interest in the man.

“I’m infatuated, addicted. Totally and completely in love with you,” former Snohomish chief Gordon L. Wiborg told the officer in one of the messages sent early Dec. 23. “There. I said it. I’m sorry. I didn’t want this to happen but I couldn’t help it. I’m sorry.”

Wiborg, 52, was that same day placed on leave for alleged misuse of city communication devices.

He resigned as police chief five days later, citing distraction from an unrelated lawsuit in Florida as the reason he could no longer continue to work in Snohomish.

Records of the messages Wiborg sent on his city-issued Blackberry, as well as memos and e-mails about his departure from Snohomish, were released by the city on Friday in response to a public records battle waged by The Herald.

The newspaper in January sought access to all public records about the circumstances surrounding Wiborg’s departure.

On Friday, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne ordered nearly 500 pages of Wiborg-related documents released by the city.

Wynne ruled that the records at issue must be disclosed under state public records laws.

He further said the records are “of legitimate concern to the public because they involve the relationships between city employees” including the former chief and a subordinate.

Wiborg in March filed a lawsuit in Superior Court trying to block The Herald’s access to the records. He argued his privacy would be violated and the public had no legitimate interest.

The officer who received the messages from Wiborg also brought a lawsuit. The officer supported release of the records but argued his identity needed protection because the messages constituted sexual harassment from his supervisor. The Herald agreed not to use the officer’s name.

Wiborg’s lawyer, Cynthia First of Everett, on Friday told the judge that Wiborg had an expectation of privacy when he sent messages to the officer during off-duty hours, using city owned equipment.

She also told the judge it is inaccurate to characterize the messages from Wiborg as sexually charged.

“They are not talking as a police chief and a subordinate,” she said. “They are talking as pals.”

The records released show that Wiborg and the officer sent numerous messages that day. Wiborg was upset after having recently been told the police officer’s guild had voted no confidence in his leadership, the records show.

Wiborg and the officer discussed the former chief’s sadness over trouble connecting with the Snohomish officers. Wiborg also told the officer he was tired, depressed and felt all alone.

At one point Wiborg told the officer he thought of him as “my best friend or a brother and so I wish that were mutual, but that’s another fantasy I suppose.”

The officer responded: “I think you being my Chief hinders that relationship. Don’t read into this or take it wrong please. I bet it would be easier for me to be a … friend if I didn’t work for you. I’m not saying I am going anywhere or using this for a way out.”

Later in the conversation, the officer asked Wiborg about the chief’s interest in marriage and companionship. It was during questioning about those matters that Wiborg told the officer of his romantic interest in the officer.

“Well, you already know anyway,” Wiborg wrote. “I’m in – you.(sic) Cannot believe how hard this is and I’m starting to tear up as I say this. Do you have any idea how much you really mean to me?”

The officer responded that he was surprised that Wiborg was interested in him in that way, although he told the chief he had come to suspect Wiborg may be interested in men.

“Believe me it’s not a choice …” Wiborg wrote. “I never asked for this. I’ve hidden it my whole life.”

“That’s a tough way to live,” the officer replied.

Wiborg repeatedly apologized for what he’d told the officer and asked the officer if he wanted him to resign. The officer said they should both get some sleep.

“I don’t hate you,” he wrote Wiborg. “That was just not what I expected. I think we should talk tomorrow.”

According to court papers, the officer shared the message with superiors in the department. They took steps to document the message received from Wiborg and alerted others at the city.

On Jan. 1, three days after he resigned, Wiborg sent the officer and others e-mails apologizing and asking for understanding.

“If you never respond to this or ever contact me again, I will try to understand,” Wiborg wrote. “It was my horrible mistake. I am so incredibly sorry to you. The worst sentence I could ever get is to lose all the people I care so much for. Please don’t throw me in the trash.”

City Manager Larry Bauman said Friday that no sexual harassment complaint about Wiborg has ever been brought to his attention.

Wiborg’s attorney, First, said he “is an honorable man who resigned from his duties for health concerns he had at that time. He has a strong performance record and always had the safety and best interest of the community and his fellow officers his top priority.”

Wiborg was hired by Snohomish in December 2004 and began working a month later. He earned about $93,000 annually.

In his resignation letter, Wiborg said that a lawsuit from a former police job in Florida had “become so distracting that I believe my energies and attentions are better placed elsewhere.”

The lawsuit alleges that Wiborg, who was a police captain in North Palm Beach, Fla., either engaged in or failed to stop a variety of alleged incidents of improper conduct there.

The alleged misdeeds included sexual harassment of employees, mistreatment of suspects and violation of labor laws, according to court papers.

Reporter Scott North: 425-339-3431 or

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