Claim against sheriff’s office settled for $1.5 million

The risk pool representing Island County recently settled a claim against the sheriff’s office over events that occurred in the 1990s.

The case was settled for $1.5 million, according to Budget Director Elaine Marlow. The county has to pay $50,000 of that.

Attorneys representing five women who say they were sexually assaulted by a swim coach for the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District filed the tort claim in 2015. The original claim demanded $10 million to $20 million in damages.

The claim states that a parks district commissioner at the time who also worked at the sheriff’s office was aware of the coach’s inappropriate conduct with young female swimmers as early as 1994, but didn’t report the incidences to the appropriate authorities.

Andy King, the district’s former swim coach, is a serial pedophile who preyed on girls at a series of swim programs in Washington and California during a 30-year career. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2010 after pleading guilty to 20 child molestation charges in a California courtroom.

A detective in Oak Harbor investigated accusations that King raped a young member of the team, but King suddenly left town and was never charged.

The five women who filed the claim say they were sexually abused by King while he was coach of the Aquajets swim team, which is under the North Whidbey Park and Rec umbrella.

The attorneys also filed lawsuits against the parks district for failing to protect the young girls, perform adequate background checks or respond to the evidence of the coach’s inappropriate behavior. The district’s insurance provider paid out at least $6.3 million to the five women.

The claim against the sheriff’s office states that Steve Hall, a former employee of the sheriff’s office, received information about King that triggered “the mandatory and investigatory laws under Chapter RCW 26.44.” The claim states that Hall was aware of King’s inappropriate conduct even before he was on the park district board and that he even spoke with King about his inappropriate behavior before Hall became a district commissioner.

Hall saw young female swimmers sitting on King’s lap “hundreds of times” during swim practice and was aware that he sent roses to one of the girls, the claim states.

A central question in the case is whether Hall was a mandatory reporter under the law. Under state RCWs, law enforcement officers, doctors, teachers and others are required to report if they have cause to believe that a child has been sexually or physically abused or neglected.

Hall was not a law enforcement officer but a non-commissioned officer who worked as an evidence technician, according to the sheriff’s office.

Hall hasn’t worked in the sheriff’s office in years.

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