The road to reform in the King County Sheriff office has been rocky. After years of ignoring citizen complaints and failing to review deputies’ use of force, even when they kill people, King County brought in police accountability expert Charles Gaither in 2011. His mission was to set up a new Civilian Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO).
Right away, Gaither complained he was hitting walls.
"In a word I'd have to say the union and their unwillingness to work with us collaboratively,” Gaither said last July when asked the major obstacles to his attempted reforms.
Now Gaither has another problem. He's under investigation himself.
Sources tell KING 5 the investigation started in March, when OLEO Office Manager Alejandra Calderon was passed over for a promotion and complained to the King County Council that she was the victim of gender bias, harassment and retaliation by Gaither.
Calderon was moved out of Gaither's office while an outside investigator looks into her complaint. She’s currently working out of an office at the King County Council on the 12th floor of the courthouse in Seattle.
Jane Hague chairs the King County Council’s Employment & Administration Committee but would not answer questions about the investigation.
"Unfortunately we can't comment on any ongoing personnel issues so that's what I can say,” Councilmember Hague said.
Hague would not say when the investigation is supposed to wrap up. She did express support for Gaither's work.
"Starting a new enterprise is always difficult & it sounds like Mr. Gaither is working very hard and breaking new ground,” Hague said. Asked if she still has confidence in Gaither, Hague said,
“I believe so, yes, I don't see why not, at this point."
Until the allegations against Gaither are resolved, he can't hire two investigators he needs to help him review more than 200 pending complaints, alleging everything from deputy misconduct to excessive force, further slowing reforms that were promised years ago.
Gaither said he can’t comment on the complaint because of the open investigation, but he is cooperating fully.
KING 5 was unable to reach Calderon for comment.