'Mistake' at Seahawks game costs trooper his leadership role

The district commander in charge of Washington State Patrol troopers in Pierce and Thurston counties has been reassigned after he allowed his son and his son’s girlfriend into a Seattle Seahawks game even though they had no tickets, The News Tribune has learned.

The former commander, Ken Noland, was removed Jan. 10 as the District 1 commander after State Patrol Chief John Batiste lost confidence in his ability to lead, agency spokesman Bob Calkins confirmed. Noland was reassigned as a lieutenant with the State Patrol’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Bureau, Calkins said.

In a telephone call to The News Tribune on Tuesday, Noland said, “I made a mistake, the chief made his decision, and I’m moving forward.”

Neither Noland nor Calkins would say what led up to the change of duties. The spokesman would say only, “The chief lost confidence in his ability to command.”

A source familiar with the incident gave this account to The News Tribune:

Noland was moonlighting at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, helping to provide security. Off duty but in uniform, Norland was stationed at one of the entrances to the stadium during the regular season game.

At one point Noland asked a ticket taker to allow his son and the son’s girlfriend into the game even though they had no tickets. The ticket taker refused, but Noland later was able to get them admitted.

Another State Patrol employee saw the exchange and reported Noland to superiors. Batiste then reassigned Noland.

Noland joined the State Patrol in 1990 and was made district commander in 2011.

His total salary for the year, first as a lieutenant and then as a captain, was $106,044 in 2012, the latest year for which information is available on the state’s salary database. In 2011, when he still was a lieutenant, he earned $102,089. As a lieutenant, he was eligible for overtime; as a captain he was not.

Capt. Charles “Chuck” LeBlanc, who had been overseeing the State Patrol’s detectives as the head of the criminal investigation division, was appointed as the new district commander, Calkins said.

The spokesman noted that the agency terms Noland’s reassignment a “reversion,” and not a demotion, because the chief has discretion as to who leads each district.

“We use the term reversion, because it’s done at the chief’s discretion, as opposed to a demotion, which would be the result of an (Office of Professional Standards) investigation,” Calkins said, adding he was speaking generally about State Patrol process, not about any particular trooper.

“For any reason, conceivably no reason, the chief could revert someone back to their Revised Code of Washington rank.”

Staff writer Stacia Glenn contributed to this report.