Sultan police staffer is fired

SULTAN — A Sultan Police Department administrative manager has been fired for misusing police computers.

Caroline Pepperell, 47, was notified Sept. 5 that her position was terminated, her attorney Mike Subit said. She is planning to appeal the decision to the city’s civil service commission.

Pepperell is accused of looking up information in a police database for personal use, a violation of a department policy, Mayor Ben Tolson said in a letter to Pepperell.

“It’s not something we will tolerate,” Tolson said Wednesday.

The computer systems are integral parts of law enforcement and misuse puts the city at risk of losing the equipment that provides information about criminal backgrounds, he said.

The firing comes after then-Police Chief Fred Walser asked the Washington State Patrol in June 2006 to investigate Pepperell for several allegations of wrongdoing.

The 44-page State Patrol report cleared Pepperell of most of the allegations but did find that she acted improperly when she looked up information about an acquaintance.

Subit said the firing was extreme punishment that doesn’t fit the seriousness of the offense.

Many police employees, including uniformed officers, look up information for personal reasons, he said.

“She had 12 years with an unblemished record with the city of Sultan,” Subit said. “She shouldn’t be singled out and treated differently than other people.”

Tolson said he couldn’t comment on the lawyer’s allegations.

“We had to follow through with the information presented to us by the State Patrol,” the mayor said. “We felt it was in the best interest of the city to move forward.”

Pepperell’s alleged wrongdoings are one part of the city’s investigation into Walser.

In May, Walser announced plans to retire. A few weeks later he was placed on administrative leave. City officials have said Walser is being investigated as part of two probes into allegations of wrongdoing at the police department, including the Pepperell matter.

Walser tried to rescind his resignation until after the investigations were complete. City officials refused to reconsider.

Walser appealed to the civil service commission, an independent, three-person board that typically acts as an intermediary between sworn police officers and city officials. The commission denied Walser a hearing, his attorney, J.C. Becker, said.

The matter is now being disputed in court.

The city’s investigation into Walser is expected to be complete in the next 30 days, Tolson said.

The allegations against Pepperell aren’t the first time she’s been in trouble for misusing police computers.

In the 1990s, she was fired from the Mountlake Terrace police department for alleged misuse of computers, the State Patrol report said.

Still, what Pepperell did happens all the time, Subit said

“Is this really a fireable offense given how frequently this happens? No,” he said.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or

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