Third Oak Harbor site reveals no human bones
By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
July 29, 2011 · Updated 2:33 PM
An anonymous tip that sparked a state investigator to begin investigating an alleged third Native American bone site and city coverup turned out to be largely bogus.
An anthropologist from the Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation visited the site Thursday and confirmed that human remains were not on the site. However, he did discover animal bones and “cultural material indicative of both a prehistoric and historic archaeological site,” agency Director Allyson Brooks said.
On Tuesday morning, the historic preservation office received an anonymous tip in the form of a fax that dirt from SE Pioneer Way had been delivered to a home on Waterloo Road. The fax alleged the soil contained human remains and that a city employee asked the property owner and the tenants to “keep this information confidential and if this information were to leak out, the Pioneer Way project could be delayed.”
Just hours after the investigation was announced and an online News-Time’s story appeared, the property owner, Brad Jensen, alerted the newspaper that the tipster had it wrong. While he did accept free dirt from the city, no city employee ever came out to the site and confirmed the presence of human remains and no one was told to keep quiet.
“The city did not tell us to keep our mouth shut,” Jensen said.
Jensen, who recently moved to San Diego, said he asked the contractor for fill dirt when he saw trucks driving past his Oak Harbor property. The contractor was happy to help him out, he said. But then news broke of bones being found in the Pioneer Way dirt.
Jensen said he immediately contacted the contractor who promised to follow up. “Apparently it wasn’t followed up,” he said.
Jensen’s tenants appear not to have been involved. In fact, they didn’t move in until after the dirt delivery. They asked not to be identified but did corroborate Jensen’s story.
Brooks said the confirmation of the landowner and tenants was satisfactory, and as far as the state agency is concerned, “the city is vindicated in terms of wrong-doing on Mr. Jensen’s property.”
The historic preservation office isn’t through with its investigation. Soil from SE Pioneer Way was delivered to another site and the question now is where it came from, who knew about it, and did dirt go anywhere else.
“We’re not done looking into this by any means,” Brooks said.
Oak Harbor Mayor Jim Slowik said he wasn’t aware that dirt from the street project had been delivered anywhere but the official dump site on Pit Road. He said he was glad the state was in charge of the investigation, and not the city, and he looks forward to learning what they find out.
“I don’t know if there is anyone else (that got dirt) and I’m curious to know how much (Jensen) got,” Slowik said.
He declined to speculate on the identify of the anonymous tipster or their motivations.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Justin Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-675-6611 ext. 5054.