Herbert Cy Sun, mayor of the small city of Pacific, already faces a sea of official troubles.
They compounded Wednesday and spilled into his private life. A lawsuit filed in Pierce County Superior Court accuses Sun of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl more than 40 years ago.
Sun, 82, denied the allegations Wednesday, and said police investigated the allegations at the time and no criminal charges were filed.
“If they want to bring the case up again, they can,” he told The Seattle Times. “I do remember, and I won that case.”
The suit alleges Sun molested Kathy Carbaugh, now 57, over a two-year period from 1968 to 1970. It states she and Sun were neighbors at the time, living in or around Tacoma.
“The majority of the sexual abuse and molestation took place inside Cy Sun’s house and on his property,” the complaint states.
The complaint states Carbaugh, who now lives in California, learned late last year of Sun’s election as mayor of Pacific, which caused her “to suffer extreme emotional distress.”
“It also led her to address some of the serious ways the abuse and exploitation damaged her,” the suit states.
The lawsuit aims at Sun in his capacity as a private citizen. It does not name the city as a defendant, nor does it name a specific amount in damages requested.
In an interview with The Seattle Times, Carbaugh said it was seeing the news stories about Sun that made her realize the damage he’d done to her, and prompted her to begin addressing it.
“He looked hunched over, stooped, hard of hearing and I am terrified of him,” she said. “I shouldn’t be. I should not be afraid of that man any longer.”
Carbaugh, a middle-school math and religion teacher, says her lawsuit is not about making money.
“Never has that been a part of this at all,” she said. “I want to be told that I am believed. That people understand and know that I am telling the truth about the essence of what he did.”
The two families were neighbors in Fife Heights, an unincorporated section of Pierce County, in the 1960s, she said. Sun, with his wife and three children, had horses and a garage full of cars and tools, and taught the neighborhood kids how to use them, she said in an interview.
She said Sun used his horses to get time alone with her, telling her she had to help feed and water them at night in order to ride them during the day. He would come to her kitchen door to get her after dinner and head to the barn, where he molested her, she said.
“I know that I am not that 14-year-old kid anymore, but it’s like being that kid again, who couldn’t speak for herself and make it stop,” she said.
Eventually her mother, Margaret Carbaugh, discovered the alleged abuse and went to police, but charges were never filed.
“It was the day and age, the atmosphere and the culture that existed,” Kathy Carbaugh said. “You needed to be hospitalized, to have visual wounds and injuries for someone to say, ‘OK, maybe.’”
Still, Margaret Carbaugh told neighbors what her daughter said happened, and in 1970, Sun and his then-wife, Alice, sued the Carbaughs, alleging defamation.
He sought $1 million in damages. The case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning Sun couldn’t file another case with the same claim, according to Pierce County Superior Court records.
Carbaugh’s attorney, Darrell Cochran, asked what outcome could result from the suit, cited vindication for his client.
“One of the things that can happen is that our client gets validation as a human being and some measure of justice for having been sexually abused,” he said. “There’s an importance to that, an importance to the closure. It’s entirely unclear whether Mr. Sun has any assets to pay a judgment or not.”
Old and incomplete records from Pierce County Superior Court suggest that Sun was accused of sexually assaulting the girl and her mother in 1970. The records, accessible only on microfiche, include a complaint for libel filed by Sun against the girl’s parents – it sought $1 million in damages.
According to that complaint, the girl’s mother accused Sun of sexually assaulting her and her daughter.
In court papers, Sun stated that “all of said statements were false, malicious and defamatory,” caused “extreme humiliation and severe emotional upsets and anxieties.” Sun said he felt that his job as a Boeing engineer “is in extreme jeopardy and that his employment may be terminated.”
Cochran knows about the old complaint. He said his office is searching for other old documents, including a possible Pierce County sheriff’s report that might still exist in archives.
Since taking office in January, Sun has roiled the town and the City Council by firing at least 12 of 20 employees, including department heads and the chief of police. Sun contends he’s rooting out corruption.
Other officials have resigned, citing mistreatment by Sun. In April, the City Council passed a resolution declaring no confidence in the mayor.
City police officers arrested Sun last month when he tried to force his way into the city clerk’s office and gain access to personnel records held in police custody.
In response, Sun fired City Clerk Jane Montgomery, and tried to fire the officers. The officers are still working, on the advice of City Attorney Kenyon Luce. Montgomery has filed a claim for damages against the city.
Meanwhile, the King County Sheriff’s Office is investigating allegations that Sun might have destroyed public records, and city residents have mounted a campaign to recall Sun from office.
Staff writer Sean Robinson and Seattle Times staff writer Nicole Brodeur contributed to this report.