Sultan’s ex-police chief pleads guilty

SULTAN — Former Sultan Police Chief Fred Walser pleaded guilty today to providing false information to a public servant, a gross misdemeanor.

A Whatcom County district court judge ordered Walser to do 240 hours of community service and pay the city of Sultan $20,000. Walser also will be on probation for a year and be required to check in with the court periodically, said Warren Page, the deputy prosecutor who handled the case in Whatcom County.

“I just wanted to get it over with and move on,” Walser said. “I’m glad it’s behind me.”

Walser, 67, said he couldn’t afford to fight a potentially lengthy court battle.

He said he admitted to a clerical error which led to the charge. He should have produced a document when a public records request was filed when he was police chief in Sultan, Walser said.

“I had a sheriff’s report in my file that I absolutely forgot about,” he said. “I accept responsibility for losing track of the report.”

Walser will continue his bid as a Democratic candidate seeking a seat in the state Senate against incumbent Val Stevens R-Arlington.

Walser, of Monroe, has nearly four decades of law enforcement experience and worked for Sultan for nearly 12 years. In May 2007, he announced plans to retire. A few weeks later, he was placed on administrative leave.

Walser asked for an investigation by the Washington State Patrol. Other probes were launched by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, a Wenatchee attorney and Everett police.

All of the investigations examined Walser’s handling of public records, employee access to police computers and other management issues at the Sultan Police Department.

The Everett police investigation produced an 800-page report detailing the fallout from a dispute between a Sultan police department civilian employee and her neighbor. The report was forwarded to Whatcom county prosecutors to determine whether anything warranted charges.

Prosecutors had to determine if evidence suggested Walser lied to city officials and others about a Washington State Patrol computer record that showed the Sultan police employee, Caroline Pepperell, apparently used a police database to investigate her neighbor.

The report said Walser failed to provide the document in a public records request related to the neighborhood dispute. He later found the document and turned it over to city staff.

Pepperell was fired by the city in September for misusing police computers. Earlier this year, a retired judge ruled that Pepperell could be disciplined but not fired. She has been back at work for Sultan since March.

In October, Walser filed notice with the city of his intent to sue for $10 million, attorney J.C. Becker said. The matter is still pending.

Before working in Sultan, Walser worked as a State Patrol trooper for nearly 30 years.

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