Washington Assistant Attorney General Scott Marlow says he won't pursue criminal charges against Clallam County Community Development Director Sheila Roark-Miller.
Marlow said the items found in the investigation by the Bullard Law Firm don't meet "the applicable standard of proof for criminal matters."
He added that state law also specifies that "it may be proper to decline the charge where the violation of law is only technical or insubstantial and where no public interest or deterrent purpose would be served by prosecution."
Roark-Miller said, "I'm glad the worst of it is over. And I appreciate all the support the public has been giving me the last five months."
She said it was unfortunate that the county has spent so much time and money on the investigation — to date, more than $75,000 — "when it could have been solved with a simple conversation."
The issue arose after a whistleblower in Roark-Miller's office wrote to Rich Sill, Clallam County’s human resources director, complaining that Roark-Miller “seemed to be utilizing her power in order to get special privileges that are not granted to the public.”
In her complaint the whistleblower said Roark-Miller insisted the inspector show up on a Sunday. Sill, she said, "didn't bother to ask the inspector."
After receiving the whistleblower complaint, Sill turned it over to the Bullard Law Firm in Portland, Ore., which has a contract with Clallam County. The lead attorney on the case, Akin Blitz, hired former FBI agent Ken Bauman to conduct the investigation and to write up his findings.
A letter Blitz sent with Bauman's report to Marlow was later released, indicating that Bauman had found evidence of malfeasance by Roark-Miller, including "offering a false instrument for filing or record," one of several possible felonies he cited.
In her complaint, the whistleblower said Roark-Miller had called George Bailey, an inspector in Miller's office, for a Sunday inspection at her home.
Marlow wrote, "The fact that it was a contractor who called and requested that Mr. Bailey come out to do the inspection removes the matter from criminal consideration with regard to Ms. Miller."
He added that it may be better if inspections of projects for Clallam County employees are performed by another jurisdiction.
The most serious charge concerned a backdated permit. On Jan. 4, 2012, Roark-Miller instructed staff to put Dec. 28 on a new commercial permit. By doing so, the new permittee was not subject to the Dungeness Water Rule regulations that became effective on Jan. 2.
Roark-Miller said she openly discussed backdating the permit with her staff.
She said, “Anyone who looked at the paper trail could see exactly what happened. It’s notated in the computer, on the hard copies. And I was explaining all along to my staff and saying these are the parameters that I have to make these decisions.”
She agreed her office had failed to complete the application in a timely manner. "It's my fault," she said.
Marlow declared that Miller had established a policy to review applications subject to the new regulations on an expedited basis "in an effort to make decisions upon those applications, thereby minimizing the impact of the regulatory changes upon pending applications."
Marlow said Roark-Miller backdated, or had staff backdate the application, but said "these actions and directions were given by Ms. Miller in her capacity as the elected Director of Community development for Clallam County."
"The actions were not taken with criminal malice or intent, but rather to correct an error made by the office that could have resulted in liability on behalf of Clallam County."
Marlow concluded that while none of Roark-Miller's actions warrant criminal charges, "That is not to say that the DCD office is without issues or problems, only that those issues or problems are not best dealt with in the criminal forum." Ken Bagwell, who represents Miller, said, "I'm extremely pleased with the Attorney General's decision not to prosecute. It's clearly the correct decision based on Ms. Roark-Miller's actions."
"But," he added, "we're not done."
Bagwell said he plans to ask the county to "move forward in dealing with the outstanding whistleblower complaint."
He noted that some of the charges found in that complaint didn't rise to the level of criminal charges. "We want a complete exoneration. I'm going to ask them to finish this. The criminal charges have been declined and now I believe she'll be fully exonerated."