The Journal endorses San Juan County prosecuting attorney and sheriff | Editorial

Staff report

We must endorse San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney Randall Gaylord and Sheriff Ronald Krebs for re-election. Their opponents, local attorney Nick Power and deputy Jeff Asher, are simply not suitable for the positions.

Power and Asher has criticized Gaylord and Krebs for not following up on a 2014 warning that former detective Stephen Parker was corrupt. The Journal has spent six months investigating Parker’s past and we have not been able to conclude whether or not those claims are factual. It’s unrealistic to ask the prosecutor’s and sheriff’s office to spend that much time on a background check. While it is upsetting that Parker did, in fact, turn out to be a bad apple, the blame remains on him and not the hiring process. Below is a timeline of events:

October 2014

Detective Stephen Parker was hired by Sheriff Rob Nou.

Dec. 20, 2014

Newly elected Sheriff Krebs emailed Gaylord that Asher’s friend Martin Sinclair, an attorney in Montana, had information on Parker. Krebs and Gaylord did not follow up with Sinclair. Krebs officially took office as new sheriff in January 2015.

June-July 2016

Just a month after former Orcas teacher Gerald Grellet-Tinner was found guilty of sexual misconduct with a student, Parker – the lead investigator – was accused of having sex with the victim.

December 2016

Parker resigned.

Christmas Eve 2016

Gaylord said Asher dropped off both partial and redacted documents to the home of Deputy Prosecutor Teresa Barnett that showed an unnamed detective texted witnesses about case details in an unnamed court proceeding involving Tavarse Green in Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. Parker had worked at the base at one point. The judge did not conclude any misconduct in regards to the texts. Asher declined to comment to the Journal as to how he got the documents and why he didn’t give them to the prosecutor’s office while Parker worked for the county.

January 2017

An independent investigation into Parker alleged he had sex with the victim in the Grellet-Tinner case as well as showed disrespectful conduct toward her, used aliases to hide communication with her and shared details of other cases with the victim.

April 2017

San Juan Superior Court dismissed the charge of sexual misconduct with a minor against Grellet-Tinner, which overturned his 2016 conviction. A few days later, Power announced his client Grellet-Tinner would seek a $10 million lawsuit against the San Juan County Prosecutor’s Office.

April 2018

Parker’s questionable conduct was responsible for reduced charges of two additional sex crime cases in San Juan County.

May 4, 2018

Power gave the Journal email communication between Krebs and Gaylord about Asher’s accusations regarding Parker in 2014.

May 18, 2018

Power announced he is running for county prosecutor.

May 16, 2018

The Journal contacted Sinclair about Parker’s past. Sinclair declined to comment but texted the Journal general manager on May 17 the words: “United States vs. Tavarse A. Green.”

May 18, 2018

The Journal made the first of three unfulfilled Freedom of Information Act requests to the Air Force regarding United States vs. Tavarse A. Green.

June 20, 2018

Grellet-Tinner’s petition to file citizen charges against Parker was rejected by San Juan County District Court. Grellet-Tinner was represented by Power, who accused Krebs and Gaylord of lying to the county council on Jan. 24, 2017, when they said they could not have done anything differently with Parker’s background check. Krebs told the council, “We went overboard. And nothing, nobody anywhere had anything bad to say about him.”

According to Power, the smoking gun was the email from Krebs to Gaylord in 2014 stating that Sinclair contacted Asher about Parker’s previous misconduct.

July 2018

Asher announced he is running for sheriff.

Oct. 16, 2018

Krebs emailed the Journal a statement signed from Sinclair, under penalty of perjury, that the only thing he would have told San Juan County in 2014 about Parker is that he was fired from a job for being racially insensitive when using the word “chief.” Sinclair does not mention the United States vs. Tavarse A. Green case he previously texted to Journal staff. Sinclair declines to comment further to the Journal.

Oct. 18, 2018

The Journal has yet to receive court documents from the United States vs. Tavarse A. Green. The Journal concludes that there is no evidence, at this point, to show that the county could have known of Parker’s proclivity toward misconduct.

Asher’s and Power’s involvement

Asher purports himself as a “whistleblower” of Parker’s inappropriate behavior. We disagree. He did not give the county any factual, concrete information. Instead, he dropped off partial and redacted documents on Christmas Eve well after Parker’s misconduct in San Juan County came to light. Sinclair has now gone on record saying the only thing he had to tell the county back in 2014 was that Parker used racially insensitive slang in a previous position.

It’s possible that the U.S. vs. Green court case holds more answers, but at this point, it’s unknown how that case even relates to all of this. You cannot blame Gaylord and Krebs for disregarding documents that blackout critical names. They should have called Sinclair. However, since Sinclair has proven himself to be unreliable by telling multiple versions of his knowledge of Parker, his information may not have been useful.

We do agree that Krebs and Gaylord should have been upfront with the county council that Asher told them Parker was corrupt. Transparency is always the best option.

Power’s motives are also questionable to us. As the lawyer for Grellet-Tinner, he claims to want “justice,” yet the monetary incentive is troubling. While the $10 million lawsuit has yet to be filed, it seems logical that he is still gathering material to make his case. We agree that Parker’s lack of punishment is upsetting. However, we believe that Gaylord’s request to use an outside agency to investigate and charge Parker was correct because he regularly worked with those prosecutors, which would have been a conflict of interest. Power’s insistence that Parker be charged in San Juan County is unethical.

The candidates

Since he was elected in 2014, Krebs has made communication improvements, increased his budget and offered more training to staff. Employees of the sheriff’s office have written letters of support for his re-election. In addition, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Guild endorsed Krebs. The guild has 26 law enforcement members.

Gaylord has given decades of public service to our county. He has advocated for the rights of victims, including helping to change Washington state law to prioritize individuals receiving restitution for out-of-pocket expenses before companies.

We have grave concerns about the leadership and decision-making ability of Asher and Power. Both seem to be prioritizing mistakes they attribute to the incumbents as opposed to bringing new ideas to the positions. They are also obsessed with how the county handled the Parker incident.

This is the third time Asher, a longtime deputy, has run for sheriff. Will he be able to bring people together? Or will he be a divisive force in the department?

Power has built his campaign on allegations against Gaylord and Krebs which have no factual basis. If Power conducted himself similarly as county prosecutor it will be a sad day for citizens who could face charges without evidence.

Leading up to this November’s election, our pages have been filled with accusatory letters from community members about the Parker case. Power and Asher have perpetuated the spreading of false information. Neither of them is up to the task of being leaders in the field of serving and protecting some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Krebs and Gaylord are the best candidates, and if re-elected, it is our sincerest hope that transparency and truth are high on their list of priorities. We are watching.