Ombudsman Is Fired -- County Council Says Krull Engaged In `Misconduct'

The Metropolitan King County Council has fired its watchdog on county government for sending a sexually explicit computer message to a woman subordinate.

The council yesterday voted 10-3 to fire Ombudsman David Krull. Although the specific charge against Krull was "misconduct" for sending the electronic message to one of his assistants, members clearly were considering the war of press statements and charges Krull had waged since the dispute became public.

For the first time in the two-month public debate, neither Krull nor his attorneys had anything to say after the council vote. Previously, however, he has indicated plans to sue the council if he were dismissed.

"That's for me and my lawyers to decide," were Krull's only words as he was whisked by his lawyers into a waiting elevator after a long and unusual council session.

Ordinarily, hiring and firing of County Council employees is done in private. Krull had insisted on an open hearing, and the council chamber yesterday was crowded with his supporters.

They characterized his act of sending the purported "Instruction and advice for a young bride" as a "relatively minor mistake" and said the punishment of firing was far too extreme.

Krull's attorney, Miles Stanislaw, said Krull's actions would not meet state standards of misconduct in office and criticized the county's investigation into the incident by a specialist in sexual harassment. He said the council members had been more interested in protecting their legal position than in ferreting out the truth. "One isolated act of indiscretion is not grounds for dismissal," he said.

Jim Brewer, the council's staff attorney, conceded that Krull's action would not meet the standard for sexual harassment.

Krull is accused of sending the message - supposedly advice to young brides written by a 19th-century minister's wife - to his assistant, Amy Calderwood, after she became engaged.

Calderwood told investigators that she had agreed to see the message but found it inappropriate. She also said Krull had made unwarranted comments about her appearance and had told her about experiences he and his wife had had with a dance instructor and a personal trainer, both of whom had "large breasts."

But Brewer argued that the action constituted misconduct, especially after county employees had been "warned against raising intimate sexual issues with subordinates in the workplace."

Calderwood was not available for comment. Her fiance, Ethan Melone, said he was pleased with the firing. He called statements about her by Krull and Stanislaw "vicious attacks and vile slander."

The council rules required a two-thirds vote to fire the ombudsman. The three votes to retain him came from Brian Derdowski, Kent Pullen and Greg Nickels. Derdowski said Krull's offense did not warrant firing.