Mayor puts Tenino police chief on leave for 90 minutes

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by ZAHID ARAB / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on May 16, 2013 at 5:46 PM

Updated Thursday, May 16 at 5:51 PM

In another bizarre political twist in the City of Tenino, Mayor Eric Strawn put Police Chief John Hutchings on administrative leave for 90 minutes Thursday.

Strawn claimed the chief mishandled a stalking case against another city council member.

The mayor sent Hutchings an internal email notifying him of the action and asking that the chief be out of his office in 30 minutes.

This stems from an incident last summer when Strawn said a council member stalked his family.

“He would drive by, turnaround, drive by, turnaround, looking through our windows. He was finally pulled over in front of my house,” said Strawn.

There was an internal investigation but nobody was charged. City councilman Wayne Fournier feels it was handled appropriately.

“If there was wrongdoing, it would be stated a year ago when this was looked into. It does seem suspect that this comes up a year after our police department forwards on multiple criminal investigations on to other agencies,” said Fournier.

Strawn is under investigation by an outside group for his conduct in office.  He learned the stalking case was not treated the same way, which prompted his email.

“I found out today it was handled internally and I thought that was wrong,” said Strawn.

Wrong enough that he put his police chief on administrative leave, but legal advisors told the mayor it was not a good idea. Chief Hutchings was back to work 90 minutes later.

This controversy comes in Strawn’s last two weeks as mayor. Although he has not formally resigned, he told KING 5 he will hand over his keys by June 1st.

Strawn plans to ask the Washington State Patrol to investigate the stalking case next Monday.

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