The Lakewood Police Department has terminated Officer Brian Wurts, a former police union president and one-time legislative candidate who gained attention for his vocal support of four fellow officers slain in 2009.
Wurts, an eight-year veteran of the department, said Wednesday that he intends to fight the decision.
“I have been a good cop for 12 years and never had less than superior evaluations,” he said in an emailed statement. “I am now paying for being an active union president and standing up for my officers too many times. ... they have fired me with no evidence I did anything wrong. Anybody who has worked with me and knows me know that I would never let anyone steal from our own and I am happy to have support from many of the rank and file officers.”
The department released a general statement Wednesday, announcing the termination and little more. It states that Wurts was terminated Dec. 28 for “misconduct as it related to the department’s manual of standards.”
Lakewood Police spokesman Chris Lawler noted that Wurts has the right to appeal the decision.
Wurts had been on paid administrative leave since February of last year, when the department discovered the theft of charitable donations by former Lakewood officer Skeeter Timothy Manos, who ultimately pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of wire fraud.
Manos had been the treasurer of the Lakewood Police Independent Guild at the time of the thefts. Wurts, a colleague of Manos’, was the guild president.
The statement from Wurts indicates that he was terminated because he should have known of the thefts. Wurts contends the allegation is baseless.
“The City refused to accept or even read multiple emails and rebuttals that showed I had nothing to do with this and refused to talk to witnesses who could have also cleared the allegation that as the president of the union I should have known the treasurer was stealing,” he said.
The money taken by Manos was intended for the families of four officers fatally shot by Maurice Clemmons on Nov. 29, 2009. Charging documents associated with the federal case against Manos stated that he opened an account in his own name, which he used to siphon money from the charitable donations as well as the police guild’s account. Manos forged Wurts’ signature to obtain access, records state.
In the course of that investigation, Lakewood police leaders also requested a criminal investigation of Wurts, conducted by the Tacoma Police Department. That inquiry did not find criminal behavior by Wurts.
“Their investigation did not result in the charging of any crimes,” the Lakewood department’s statement notes. “An internal investigation was then conducted, which resulted in the termination on Dec. 28.”
Wurts, calling the city’s internal investigation “absurdly incomplete and one-sided,” said he will seek a reversal of the decision and fight to clear his name.
“Manos committed unspeakable crimes but the FBI and Tacoma showed I had nothing to do with it; the administration still thought they could get rid of a union president who did not do everything they wanted,” Wurts wrote.
Following Manos’s conviction and sentencing in federal court, Pierce County prosecutors charged him with identity theft and forgery. The charges revolved around the same set of circumstances that led to the federal conviction. That case is pending.
Rumors surrounding the Manos investigation and reported by KIRO-TV held that Manos also was being investigated for possible theft of campaign contributions tied to Wurts’ unsuccessful 2010 run for a seat in the Legislature.
The statement announcing Wurts’ termination makes no mention of that allegation — but public records indicate that Manos might have played a role in Wurts’ campaign.
Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486