Police chief's suspension carries a cost for Sultan

SULTAN — Police Chief Fred Walser is still collecting a paycheck despite not having worked for more than four weeks.

Walser was suspended May 10 after being accused of sexual harassment by a former clerk at the Police Department. He's been suspended with pay, which amounts to a salary of about $4,800 a month.

Mayor C.H. Rowe would like Walser back at work as soon as possible, especially because the leave is costing city taxpayers.

"I would love to see him back at work because so far these are only accusations. No charges have been filed," Rowe said. "But I can't bring him back until this investigation is completed."

A 22-year-old Lynnwood woman filed a complaint with the Lynnwood Police Department in April saying Walser had sexually harassed her while she was a Sultan police clerk from 1999 to 2001.

The state Attorney General's Office is investigating the allegation after the case was shuffled among Lynnwood police and the Snohomish and King County sheriff's offices.

But the Attorney General's Office usually doesn't handle sexual-harassment complaints against law-enforcement officers, the office has said. Gary Larson, a spokesman for the attorney general, expects the investigation to be completed within three weeks. The office then will make a decision on whether to file a criminal charge.

For Walser, who's been tending his garden, watching television and completing odd jobs for his wife, Donnetta Walser, the suspension is beginning to get to him.

"It's one of the hardest things for him because he's a workaholic, and (the department) is shorthanded," said his wife, who is mayor of Monroe.

Rowe has forbidden the chief to talk to the news media or the Sultan Police Department.

Former Sultan City Administrator Roy Bysegger also is concerned with the allegations against Walser and their timing. Bysegger was city administrator when the complainant left the Police Department. He said he conducted the woman's exit interview.

"I remember speaking with her about 30 to 45 minutes, and it would seem that if anything there was this pressing, that would have been the appropriate time to mention it," Bysegger said.

"But she said nothing at that time, nothing that would have required an investigation."

The former employee has not responded to messages left at her home.

This is the second time in a year Walser has been put on leave by Rowe. Rowe called Walser's leadership into question last summer, asking him to resign without publicly stating the reason. Rowe later reinstated Walser.

Christopher Schwarzen: 425-745-7811 or cschwarzen@seattletimes.com