Newly released documents report accusations of racial discrimination in the Fife Police Department, at least one sexual relationship inside the police force and several improper actions by the police chief.
The complaints made by two Fife police officers include an accusation that Police Chief Brad Blackburn “engaged in inappropriate relationships with young adult offenders.”
Blackburn, reached by The News Tribune on Monday night, called that accusation “unfounded.”
An outside investigation into the allegations is finished, and city officials say it will be released Thursday. It originally was scheduled to be made public Aug. 15.
City Manager Dave Zabell would not comment on the investigation Monday, but strongly hinted it will exonerate the six-year police chief. Zabell said that if Blackburn had committed discrimination or retaliation or had inappropriate relationships with offenders, the chief would have been placed on administrative leave – a step Zabell never took.
“Beyond that, you can wait for the report,” Zabell said.
Blackburn said Monday that the investigative report will conclude that a lot of the allegations are unfounded.
He and two other officers were accused of discrimination and retaliation against another police employee, according to documents reviewed Monday by The News Tribune. The records were released in response to the newspaper’s request in June for all correspondence between the city manager and police employees in 2011.
One of the three officers targeted by the complaints (not Blackburn) is alleged to have had “an inappropriate sexual or romantic relationship with a subordinate.” That officer also is alleged to have ignored complaints that the romantic partner “appeared for work in an intoxicated or otherwise mentally incapacitated state.”
A fourth police employee is accused of having “a sexual or romantic relationship with a superior officer.” The documents don’t say whether that superior is the same officer accused of having the inappropriate sexual relationship.
The names of the four accused police employees were blacked out even though the investigation is finished. The News Tribune confirmed that one of them is Blackburn.
Zabell listed the allegations in emails in April to the four accused employees. Including Blackburn, the three officers – based on the complaints – appear to be the three highest-ranking members of the Fife Police Department, which has about 60 employees.
Mayor Barry Johnson declined comment Monday.
“To be honest, I haven’t looked at what documentation has been released,” Johnson said. “It’s also an administrative issue I’m not going to deal with.”
In the new documents, a discrimination and retaliation complaint is levied against Blackburn and two other supervisors over a request for bilingual-language pay for one or more police employees.
Zabell said employees in the department are paid slightly more if they are bilingual. In this case, Spanish was the second language.
Blackburn was accused of discriminating against two police employees “on the basis of their race/ethnic origin by unfairly denying them extra pay for their bilingual language skills,” Zabell said in an April email.
Blackburn also was alleged to have retaliated against the two for complaining about the pay denial. One employee alleges he was excluded from teaching at the Fife reserve officers academy. The other alleges he was unfairly sent before a review board and given unnecessary counseling, Zabell wrote.
Blackburn also is alleged to have made “rude, insensitive and discriminatory comments regarding females during staff meetings,” according to Zabell’s email.
The city plans Thursday to release a 15-page report from the Prothman Co., the Issaquah consultant that conducted the investigation.
Zabell has said the latest complaints have nothing to do with two veteran Fife police officers who were investigated and resigned this year or a third Fife officer who was disciplined, as previously reported in The News Tribune.
The City of Fife said in May that Lt. Doug Burrus was suspended for three days without pay after an investigation showed he didn’t follow through on an employee’s complaints that she’d been sexually harassed by a police officer for nearly a decade. Documents released later said that officer was Lt. Jeff Westover, who resigned Jan. 6.
On Monday, Zabell confirmed a report that Burrus is under investigation once again, but he wouldn’t say for what.