Questions left in former county detective wake | Guest column

By Alex MacLeod

Shaw Island

There is a crucial question left in the wake of the Orcas High School teacher convicted of sexual misconduct with a student; a case that was thrown out after it was discovered that the lead detective in the case was in a sexual relationship with the victim before and during the trial.

The question is this: was there any opportunity to know that the detective, Stephen Parker, had clues in his past that might have caused the county to reconsider his hire or, failing that, to supervise him more closely?

That was what County Councilman Bill Watson asked after Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord and Sheriff Ron Krebs briefed the council in January of 2017, about how the case had imploded.

In response, Gaylord said his office had “looked left and right and asked what did we miss?… What went wrong?… I’d say we were vigilant in this case … I do not know what I could have done differently.”

Krebs added that he couldn’t think of anything the sheriff’s office could have done differently, either, adding: “Nothing, nobody anywhere had anything bad to say about him (Parker).”

What Gaylord and Krebs knew, but didn’t tell the council, was that they had received a warning that there were possible problems in Parker’s background. The information was provided between the time Parker was hired but before he reported for duty.

The warning came when San Juan County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Asher told Krebs that Montana lawyer Martin Sinclair, a personal friend who worked in the same jurisdiction as Parker, had told him Parker was known to be “dishonest … had integrity issues and was threatening to others.”

Krebs took Asher’s tip to be significant enough that he sent an email to Gaylord on Dec. 20, 2014, asking him to call Montana to check it out. Gaylord responded that he was going on vacation and handed it off to Emma Scanlan, his chief criminal deputy at the time. For reasons that haven’t been explained, the call to verify the information was never made.

When he learned that Krebs and Gaylord told the council there were no questions raised about Parker during the hiring process, Asher wrote Gaylord and the council saying that was not true. In two follow up letters to Asher, with copies to Krebs and the council, Gaylord denied there had been any written notice of a potential problem (“in the files,” he carefully qualified), hinted that Asher was a troubled employee and directed him back to his chain-of-command.

Gaylord and Krebs have declined to answer why they didn’t follow-up on Asher’s warning, or why they didn’t disclose it to the council.

As voters and citizens, we should demand answers to these questions of our elected officials. As candidates for re-election in November, both Gaylord and Krebs need to provide those answers.