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$15 million claim filed against North Whidbey Park and Recreation District

A former member of the Aquajets swim team who was allegedly sexually abused by a swim coach in the 1990s has filed a $15 million claim for damages against North Whidbey Park and Recreation District.

The claim states that Andrew “Andy” King, who was the swim coach and aquatics director, molested and raped the claimant from 1994 to 1997, when she was just 12 to 13 years old. She reported the abuse in 2000 and the police investigated the allegation, but King was never charged in that case.

Last year, investigators in San Jose, Calif., uncovered that 61-year-old King is a serial pedophile who used his position as a swim coach to molest at least a dozen young girls over a 30-year career. King pleaded no contest in November to 20 child molestation charges. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday and faces up to 40 years in prison.

North Whidbey Park and Recreation Director Craig Carlson, who wasn’t at the district when King was the coach, said he couldn’t comment on the possible impending litigation. The claim for damages is currently with the district’s insurance company, Enduris. Filing the claim for damages with a public agency is the necessary first step before a lawsuit can be pursued.

The claim states that King “frequently and repeatedly sexually abused” the girl at various locations, including the John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool, his home, his car and motel rooms when the team was away.

The claims states that the district was negligent in hiring, training, retaining and supervising King. It states that there were multiple warning signs that King acted verbally and physically inappropriate to her.

Janice Hall, who was president of the swim team booster club when King was the coach, said the district was responsible for supervising an employee who had unlimited access to young girls. She said district leaders wouldn’t listen to concerns about his behavior.

“Many of us spoke up,” she wrote in an email message. “No one would listen to us, only label those of us who spoke up as ‘troublemakers’ or disgruntled swimmers and parents. I find it sad that the Island County prosecutor didn’t want to prosecute this case and take the victim more seriously. Perhaps Andy King could have been stopped sooner.”

Seattle attorney Jay Krulewitch, the claimant’s lawyer, said the district didn’t provide any “substantial supervision” of King and that neglect led to immeasurable harm to his client, who was “an extremely talented young swimmer.

“She was robbed of her childhood, she was robbed on her dream to be a collegiate swimmer and beyond,” he said.

The Mercury News, which ran a series of stories about King, reported that he made the girl sit at the end of the pool under a sign that said “loony.”

The girl reported the abuse to police in 2000. Detective Teri Gardner with the Oak Harbor Police investigated the allegations at the time. The Island County Prosecutor’s Office reviewed the case and declined to charge King. In an interview last year, Gardner said the delay in reporting made it difficult to find enough evidence against King.

The Mercury News reported that King was also investigated for child molestation during the 1980s in Contra Costa County, Calif. The report states that investigators in neither Oak Harbor nor Contra Costa ever got the chance to question King about the allegations.

In 1997, King mysteriously disappeared from his Oak Harbor coaching job right before the park and recreation board was scheduled to discuss complaints about his inappropriate behavior with young female swimmers.

King was hired as a swim coach in San Jose in 2000. Last March, a 14-year-old swimmer told police that King had been molesting her. Investigators discovered many more victims going back into the 1980s, including a 14-year-old girl whom he impregnated, the Mercury News reported.

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