Guest Column by Alex MacLeod: Gaylord ignored warnings about disgraced detective

Given known facts, it is curious the lengths to which prosecuting attorney Randy Gaylord has gone to cover up his failure to check out a tip that might have kept the county from hiring a sheriff’s detective whose subsequent behavior blew up one sex case and compromised several others.

It is also curious why the county council has assisted Gaylord in this cover-up. The truth is a matter of public record. The council has accepted Gaylord’s argument that saying anything about his failure might compromise the county’s position when it is sued by the Orcas teacher whose case the detective fatally compromised.

Actually, their silence protects Gaylord in his run for re-election.

The simple fact is that Gaylord was asked, in writing, by Sheriff Ron Krebs to check out a report he’d gotten from longtime deputy Jeff Asher that there were troublesome things in Stephen Parker’s past that hadn’t been learned in his pre-employment background checks. (Asher now is running against Krebs for sheriff.) Asher had provided Krebs with the name of the source of the information, which Krebs passed on to Gaylord. This was after Parker had been hired, but before he had reported for duty.

The email from Krebs to Gaylord, sent Dec. 20, 2014, is a public record which anyone can review, as are the other documents and the public hearing referenced below.

Had Gaylord made the call, or made sure his chief deputy had made it, there is a very good chance the hire would have been reconsidered or, at the very least, Parker would have been closely supervised. Either one might have prevented the damage Parker did to the county, and to justice itself.

The information had come from an old friend of Asher’s, who knew Parker when he worked for the Air Force in Montana before leaving to come to San Juan County. His name is Martin Sinclair. When I called Sinclair recently, he said I was the first one from the San Juans he’d heard from, other than Asher.

I found Sinclair to be a careful and deliberate. He made clear distinctions between what he knew first-hand and what he had heard from others. He was in law enforcement before he became a lawyer and then served as a lawyer for the Navy and Air Force, including a tour in Iraq. Parker’s wife worked in the law department with Sinclair at Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, which is how Sinclair came to know him.

Sinclair said his first call to Asher came after he heard Parker had been hired as a San Juan County detective. “It was just a heads-up call to an old buddy to watch his back,” based on what he knew about Parker. He subsequently expanded that, telling Asher more about what he knew or had heard about Parker. That information is what led to Asher’s warning to Krebs, something Sinclair said he hadn’t intended.

Here is how Krebs summarized the information about Parker in his email to Gaylord: “changing statements, hiding evidence, destroying evidence, fabricating victim statements and other issues…” A call to Sinclair would have led to calls to others, to a military-court case in which Parker was a discredited witness and raised questions about the quality of the earlier pre-hire backgrounding. But no call was made.

In his only public comments to the council about the Parker debacle, Gaylord said: “I’d say we were vigilant in this case…I do not know what I could have done differently.” It turns out he had said something quite different earlier that day in a private meeting with the council — one participant said he told the council about the Asher/Krebs warning —though exactly what he said about it isn’t known. He no longer is answering questions about Parker.

He subsequently wrote two official letters in response to Asher’s complaints that he and Krebs hadn’t told the truth to the council. In those letters, copied to the council, Gaylord denied the existence of Asher’s warning to Krebs, or Kreb’s request for Gaylord to check out the warning. Those were lies that the council, from Gaylord’s executive-session discussion, knew to be lies, yet they remain unwilling to acknowledge that publicly. They will only say their silence does not make them complicit in Gaylord’s attempt to hide his nonfeasance.

There is one other thing Gaylord told the council when he and Krebs testified about the Parker case. “The integrity of the justice system,” he said, “is built first on honesty and truth at every step of the process.” In that, he is right. His actions, however, don’t reflect his words. Voters should take heed.

- Written by Alex MacLeod who lives on Shaw Island

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