Commanders’ union alleges misconduct by King County sheriff in complaint

John Urquhart, Sheriff for King County

SEATTLE — The labor union representing police commanders and other high-ranking officers  alleged widespread misconduct by King County Sheriff John Urquhart in a complaint filed with the state labor board Tuesday.

The complaint alleges that Urquhart engaged in a series of retaliatory actions against the leaders of the police commanders’ union — the Puget Sound Police Managers Association — after the union officers had presented complaints to Urquhart about his management of the sheriff’s office.

The union’s complaint said there has been an ongoing pattern of retaliation by Urquhart against the union leadership and engaged in unlawful “surveillance” and “intimidation” of union members.

The complaint alleges that Urquhart directed Major Noel Fryberger to meet with union Vice President Marcus Williams “to deliver at threat to the union members about the pending Sheriff’s race. Fryberger is alleged to have told Williams that if the commanders’ union support Major Mitzi Johanknecht in her Sheriff’s race against Urquhart, that Urquhart would ‘destroy them.'”

“There are 725 commissioned members of the Sheriff’s Office, 21 of which are captains.  A few of these captains are upset by the fact that I’ve held them to the same standard as deputies when they commit misconduct,” King County Sheriff John Urquhart said in a statement.  “These same captains are financing my opponent’s campaign.  The complaint is full of lies and is a transparent attempt to generate bad press in the midst of a political campaign. None of the allegations are true.”

Union member and King County Captain Scott Somers described the unfair labor complaint “as much about the cover-up as the crime. This stuff has been leaking out about the Sheriff and his staff, and the drip is becoming a flow, and they are working to intimidate us to into keeping quiet about all of it. We aren’t going to be part of his cover-up.”

“He’s put us in a terrible position,” Somers said. “There’s all sorts of questions of dishonesty and incompetence that embarrass our membership. As Captains and Majors, we are leaders in the organization. It’s been a serious morale issue. We want to be leaders in an ethical, professional law enforcement organization and we aren’t seeing that at the very top.”

The complaint will be subject to review by the state labor board, which will determine when a hearing would be scheduled.