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Sheriff fires candidate

Deputy Jay Wallace, a Republican candidate for Island County sheriff, was fired Monday by the man he hoped to replace.

Wallace claims that Sheriff Mike Hawley’s decision to terminate his employment was “politically motivated” and that an inadequately trained 911 dispatcher caused a communication problem, according to a written statement from Wallace.

“Rather than openly address the flaws in the system — the Island County Sheriff chose to bury that information and use this incident to vilify a candidate he does not support,” Wallace wrote.

Moreover, Wallace’s version of the events are in stark contrast to the alleged victim’s claims.

Hawley, also a Republican, accused Wallace of dereliction of duty for not adequately responding to 911 calls from a woman who was allegedly beaten and held against her will at a Freeland home on the night of Feb. 7 and morning of Feb. 8, according to court documents and 911 reports.

Hawley said Wallace, who has been on paid administrative leave, was served termination papers at his Greenbank home Monday afternoon, after the two-month internal investigation into violations of policy was complete. The disciplinary findings are also complete, but will not be released to the public for a week.

“He was terminated for good cause in accordance with Island County civil service rules,” Hawley said. Earlier this year, Hawley said Wallace’s responses to both 911 calls were in violation of policy.

In the meantime, the state Attorney General’s Office hasn’t decided whether or not to charge Wallace with a crime for allegedly providing false information on a police report. Oak Harbor Police investigated the possible criminal case against Wallace, while the Sheriff’s Office handled the internal investigation.

The basis of the criminal investigation into Wallace’s conduct is his “officer’s statement” on the Feb. 7 incident. The News-Times obtained a copy of the statement, which contradicts a detective’s report.

Detective Sue Quandt’s report states that Wallace responded to the first 911 call the 25-year-old victim made from the home, but he left without contacting the woman. The victim claimed that when the deputy’s headlights appeared in the driveway, suspect Matthew Friar forced her into a closet and threatened to kill her 3-year-old son if she made a sound, the report states. Wallace didn’t respond at all to the second 911 call after being notified by a dispatcher.

In Wallace’s version, he saw a naked woman inside the house running toward the front door, but she would not answer the door. She threw on some jeans and ran to the back of the house.

“This situation was investigated thoroughly,” Wallace wrote. “The female that I made eye contact with did not want to make contact with police, as she could have approached me without threat, at any time.”

Wallace wrote that he did not respond to the second call because it was evident from the first incident that “the woman obviously did not need assistance as this was a false call out.” As one of two deputies covering South Whidbey that night, he had other calls to respond to.

Wallace claims that a dispatcher did not tell him about hearing a threatening voice in the background, which would have caused him to take the call more seriously.

Prosecutors dismissed charges against the suspect in the case, 26-year-old Matthew Friar of Bellingham, partly because Wallace’s account did not match the victim’s version. Also, the victim disappeared.

Wallace is one of four men who declared their candidacy for sheriff after Hawley announced he wouldn’t run again. Wallace has been critical of the sheriff’s administration and was running to correct problems he sees in the department.

“Problems that include low morale amongst deputies, failure to address system wide problems, heavy handed management, and political maneuvering,” Wallace wrote.

Tuesday, Hawley said he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the internal investigation until after the lengthy administrative files, disciplinary findings and audio CDs are made public April 17.

Under the civil service rules, the sheriff can discharge an employee for “good cause.” The rules list examples of good cause that include incompetency, dereliction of duty, dishonest conduct and fraudulent conduct.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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