‘Special inquiry’ judge to get Mayor Kwarsick case
By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
May 8, 2012 · Updated 1:28 PM
The Island County prosecutor’s review of Langley Mayor Larry Kwarsick will be a criminal investigation and will include the use of a special inquiry judge.
According to Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks, the process to be used is outlined under the Criminal Investigatory Act, which was enacted in 1971 to serve law enforcement in combatting crime and corruption.
Banks, who is currently engaged in three murder trials and a separate review of Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, confirmed that he will be leading the investigation himself.
He also said the act did not require him to review the allegations against Kwarsick, but that he agreed to do so only at the request of the Langley City Council and after discussions with key people.
“Based on what I’ve been told, there is something worth looking at and there is the potential for criminal charges,” Banks said.
Kwarsick, who is a former Island County planning and public works director and is the current part-time planner for Coupeville, was just four months into his first term as Langley mayor when he became the subject of a whistleblower complaint.
It alleged that he altered previously completed planning documents for a family member’s home after he was hired as Langley’s planning director in early 2011.
The whistleblower, current Langley planning chief Jeff Arango, submitted the complaint to the council and it was reviewed in a series of four executive sessions at City Hall late last month.
The council released a statement Friday that said Kwarsick did in fact modify the planning documents but that the council was not qualified to determine if the act was a violation of law. Therefore, the body forwarded the issue to the prosecutor’s office for further review.
Kwarsick has declined to talk about the specifics of the allegations but has maintained that he does not believe he will be held responsible for any wrongdoing. He has also vowed to cooperate fully with the prosecutor’s office and city council.
Banks said the investigative proceedings will include a series of closed-door hearings in which witnesses are subpoenaed and then interviewed in the presence of Island County Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock, the county’s designated special inquiry judge.
Banks made it clear that this isn’t a trial and that Judge Hancock will not issue a ruling once the process is concluded. Rather, at that time, the prosecutor will weigh whether or not to move forward with criminal charges.
The hearings are required to be conducted in secret and all the records of the proceedings are to remain sealed until released by a judge.
The prosecutor said he could not speculate on the outcome, what kind of charges Kwarsick might face, or how long the process might take. However, he did promise to make a statement once the investigation is complete, regardless of the outcome.
“You’ll know when I’m done,” Bank said.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Justin Burnett at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5054.