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Preventing disclosure
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Local police chiefs have at least one more thing in common.

Both Terry Timeus, chief of police in West Linn, and Dan Duncan, who heads the Lake Oswego Police Department, said they would like to talk about Eric Losness, but can't.

Like an unknown number of other union-protected police officers in Oregon, Losness signed a nondisclosure agreement with the city of Lake Oswego in April 2006 in exchange for $29,301.03 and his resignation from the police force.

Now, anyone with access to his personnel information is prohibited from talking about his eight years as an officer in the Lake Oswego Police Department.

Duncan and Timeus now imply that Losness has used those legal protections to marshal malcontented former officers from the Lake Oswego Police Department into making a complaint to state officials about former colleagues. The complaint, filed with the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training Feb. 11, 2008, is designed to discredit Timeus and the Lake Oswego Police Department, Duncan and Timeus said.

'This document, to me, has no credibility,' said Duncan. 'The person who wrote this document has no credibility with me. I think there are bits of truth probably throughout it but as far as the negative connotations, the immoral, illegal, unethical portions, I don't believe they happened.'

'I think this is disgruntled ex-employees that are trying to throw (aspersions) on prior fellow officers and the Lake Oswego Police Department because they have no other recourse than to do this. And I think they know that this will be kind of one-sided since we can't really speak openly about them and some of the issues while they were employed here,' he said.

Losness disagrees that his motivation was to discredit anybody and said he felt that filing the complaint was the right thing to do.

He said he resigned from his job because of pressure from management after 'nickel and dime' internal investigations - arriving minutes late to calls, having too many ride-alongs in his patrol car and parking badly minutes before a drunken driver's vehicle struck his patrol car.

While Losness said he was bored with police work before he left it and that his lack of enthusiasm was probably evident in his performance, he resents being pressured to leave the department while other officers accused of serious misconduct, like Timeus, a former Lake Oswego Police Department captain, and current Lt. Darryl Wrisley, thrived.

'I had always talked to these other people that felt nobody would take charge and try to do something like this, even though everybody I talked to thought something ought to be done,' Losness said.

His 25-page complaint to state officials read like the plot of a rouge-cop movie.

Amid charges of racism, gay bashing and sexual escapades by Timeus, his narrative told tales of former detectives for a regional drug task force partying on a yacht with prostitutes, drugs, filet mignon and the sponsor for the television show COPS. The complaint also included information that Wrisley may have been fired from a law enforcement job following allegations of sexual assault in the early 1990s.

Documents obtained by this newspaper through a public records lawsuit found there was merit in that latter claim. An internal investigation by the Washington County Sheriff's Office did find that Wrisley, a former deputy for the county, assaulted a former dispatcher, Kay Vandagriff, in her home Dec. 11, 1992.

Wrisley was fired in response to the incident but later reached a settlement in which he agreed to resign in exchange for $20,000 and a settlement that sealed Vandagriff's allegations. Wrisley was also arrested on charges of assaulting his wife and drunken driving July 8, 2000 while employed with the Lake Oswego Police Department but again kept his job.

Documents and interviews with current and former law enforcement officers and officials show how Wrisley was able to remain a police officer. He did so not only with help from a police officers' union and laws that make it hard to fire police but with assistance from well-connected friends, including Timeus - then a corporal in Lake Oswego - and Duncan, who was a patrol sergeant at the time.

Losness said he had mixed feelings about the finding.

'I feel vindicated and proud that I reported what I knew was right, but it's kind of mixed, because I can't get back the last four years of my life. There are no winners here,' he said. 'I've been carrying that bad experience around with me and I feel like I finally let it go. But, for a long time, I didn't.'

It took an investigation by this newspaper to unearth problems. More than a year ago, the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training referred Losness' complaint to the city of West Linn.

Citing limited jurisdiction and a policy to defer complaints to the officer's employer, the agency tapped West Linn City Manager Chris Jordan for a response.

'Designed to prevent public disclosure'

That response probed potential wrongdoing by Timeus, but did not make any inquiry into Wrisley's prior history since Wrisley was employed with another city.

Instead, the inquiry led a city-paid investigator, Rod Brown, to query roughly 125 potential witnesses and spend 45 days dialing for interviews, recording face-to-face meetings and sifting through files to determine whether Timeus ever broke any laws or violated city policies.

But since a lengthy report summarized Brown's findings in May 2008, no one but West Linn's attorneys has ever seen it, city attorneys and city officials say. Not Jordan, according to his statements. And not any of the people tasked with running the city of West Linn - its mayor, Patti Galle, its former mayor Norm King and seven elected city councilors who have held office since the investigation began.

The report was instead handled by city attorneys Tim Ramis and Bill Monahan, both from the Lake Oswego-based law firm Jordan Schrader Ramis.

Under laws that protect attorney work-product from public disclosure, the duo directed the inquiry and delivered only a two-page memo to city officials in response.

The memo concluded that two of the allegations made by Losness were either 'substantiated' or 'partially substantiated.'

In the memo, Ramis and Monahan noted that the following allegation from Losness' complaint was sustained: 'Timeus abused his position of authority and as a supervisor, and did not caution, nor discipline officers for allowing and watching a possible live sex show while on duty. Officers allowed public indecency to be committed, as well as implied bribery via sexual or extremely passionate activity. Officers unlawfully detained driver and passenger by delaying DUII investigation until Timeus could respond to 'watch.''

The memo also stated that the following allegation by Losness was partially sustained: 'Constantly making sexually inappropriate comments, gay bashing - degrading comments about his own sister, who is homosexual. Showing sexually inappropriate photos to other police officers. Using city resources - computer, internet and printer to view sexually explicit and other personal Web sites.'

In an interview with this newspaper, Brown said he was not permitted to discuss the circumstances leading to his conclusions. He said the majority of the complaint appeared to be derived from second- and third-hand sources, honest but attributable to police department lore.

'I believe Mr. Losness absolutely believed everything that he was saying, I think he was sincere in his beliefs, but there were very few of the allegations that were made that could be directly attributable to Mr. Losness as being the first person, the direct source of information, so therefore I had to go out and try to find the direct sources of information,' he said.

His overall conclusion found Timeus to be worthy of his current job.

'Do I think Terry Timeus is qualified to be a chief? Absolutely. Do I think Terry Timeus is doing a good job as a chief? Absolutely. Do I think the issues that are alleged have current validity? Absolutely not,' said Brown.

'The allegations here are targeted at very few individuals. You have to ask yourself why just these individuals when you know the same culture was systemic - not just in a particular police department - it was systemic throughout the industry,' he said.

Brown's inquiry exonerated Timeus on five of the allegations, did not sustain three and concluded seven others were unfounded.

In their memo, Ramis and Monahan note that while no other behavior violated 'a statute, ordinance, policy or rule,' city officials might consider certain acts by Timeus inappropriate while he was employed in Lake Oswego.

They suggested adding language to his employment contract to reinforce expectations of personal behavior. They also suggested the city offer training to Timeus to correct any problem areas and offer training to all police with an emphasis on offensive behavior based on gender or sexual orientation.

Though Jordan was asked whether he wanted to review a copy of the report, he said he did not.

'I don't get stuck in the weeds,' he said, adding he relies on contractors like the city's attorneys and human resource officials to point him to problem areas.

As long as no one in West Linn ever reads the report, the document will remain out of public view.

Though Oregon law prevents disclosure of internal investigations involving police officers if those investigations do not yield discipline and if they are not considered to be in the public interest, the city took no chances. Its use of an attorney made certain that, should any wrongdoing be found, the investigation would still be kept quiet.

The Oregon Legislature adopted new laws June 20, 2007 specifically banning the practice of using government lawyers to hide investigations of public employees. But West Linn's approach skirted those rules because, according to Jordan, the document was never read by a city official or used to take action or make policy.

The Clackamas County District Attorney's Office, asked by this newspaper to order the release of the report, legally could not. In a letter saying so on Feb. 19, senior deputy district attorney David Paul expressed concern.

'… The manner in which this matter was handled has the appearance of being designed to prevent public disclosure,' he wrote, noting public policies in Oregon favor public access to government records.

'It doesn't pass

the smell test'

Officials in West Linn say they only want to keep their police chief safe from critics like Losness, who appear intent on discrediting Timeus despite his successful efforts at righting a badly damaged police department.

For proof Losness' complaint was motivated by anger, they point to his application to the city of West Linn for a police officer's job after Timeus became chief there.

'Mr. Losness, after he left employment here, tried to get his job back here and Mr. Losness also applied to be a police officer in the city of West Linn under Terry Timeus, who is a chief, and my question to Mr. Losness would be, 'Why would you expose yourself to a network of immoral and unethical supervisors to do so, if that were the case?'' said Duncan.

'It doesn't pass the smell test,' he said.

Duncan instead attributes motivation for the complaint to bad blood between Losness and the Lake Oswego Police Department, in part for the dismissal of several police officers after he took the helm of the department in 2003.

'When I was first hired, everybody was held to the same standard and some folks didn't want to be held to that standard and they are no longer employed,' said Duncan.

Early on in his tenure, Duncan said that it 'seemed like it was every other day' that he was dealing with serious allegations of officer misconduct and supervising internal investigations.

His efforts to clean up the police department involved a reorganization aimed at streamlining policies, communication and consistent standards for behavior.

The push led to the accreditation last year of the police department by the Oregon Accreditation Alliance, an organization run by the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police. Lake Oswego became the 21st police department in Oregon to earn the distinction, meeting 107 qualifying standards and passing a two-day assessment that included interviews, a tour and close inspection of department records.

But it also led to firings, resignations and early retirements.

Though Duncan would not speak directly about internal investigations in the department since he took the helm, interviews with former officers indicate that Timeus was tapped to lead more than one internal investigation aimed at cleaning up problems.

Timeus, who rose laterally through the department with Duncan, was a trusted colleague and one of two captains serving under Duncan. Hired six months apart, the two men were detectives at the same time and have been friends since. They still hunt and fish together, Duncan said, and he formally recommended Timeus for the chief's position in West Linn.

Interviews with former law enforcement officials, including Losness, indicate that Timeus led at least one investigation probing bad behavior by Losness and at least three officers quoted or named as witnesses in the complaint made to the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training.

'Unfortunately I wish I could sit here and we could discuss the whole thing,' said Duncan, but labor laws prevent commenting about any problems with prior employees.

Duncan denied there was any reason for concern about the allegations made by Losness, including Brown's findings regarding the possible sex show.

Duncan said a similar incident occurred - police reports indicate that two women performed for officers while trying to avoid an arrest - but that officers handled the situation appropriately.

Asked whether he thought a former city manager's decision to retain Wrisley after his arrest in 2000 blurred standards for police behavior, Duncan said he did not think so. He praised Wrisley's professionalism and work ethic in a follow-up letter to the newspaper.

'He must be doing a pretty good job'

In West Linn, officials there have voiced concern about Wrisley since this series began but continue to stand by Timeus as their chief.

He was the top choice for the West Linn job, unanimously selected by an interview board after the police department suffered a period of critical instability under the leadership of John Ellison, who resigned May 11, 2005 after a vote of no-confidence from officers and a scathing review of his performance by an outside consultant.

Prior to Timeus' hire, the department suffered from such severe morale problems it was down to 23 officers of a needed 30.

'The feedback was not good. Looking at a strategic plan that was put together, it seemed to be a top-down plan,' said Scott Burgess, a city councilor in West Linn who was also on the city council at that time.

Intent on hiring the right chief, the interview board chose Timeus, who made morale-building an early goal. Since his term began, Timeus has kept police officer jobs filled, recruiting two highly skilled officers from the Portland Police Bureau and re-hiring officers who had previously left.

Jordan said Timeus' recruitment of trained officers is saving taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. Morale in the police department is so improved, Jordan said, that the police union recently rolled its old contract terms for another three years.

'A lot of police union contracts end up in arbitration. Not ours,' said Jordan. 'From my perspective, all I can do is take a look at our chief and say he must be doing a pretty good job.'

In his inquiry into Losness' complaint, however, Brown noted that the city of West Linn made a critical misstep in Timeus' hire: The city never conducted a background check of Timeus prior to making him chief, an issue Jordan blamed on the city's former human resource director, who has since been fired.

'We've gone back and done such a thorough background check it's probably more thorough than anything that's ever been done,' he said. 'That came back clean.'

Jordan, who was assistant city manager in Lake Oswego when Timeus worked for the Lake Oswego Police Department, said he had no knowledge of the 1992 charges against Wrisley or how Timeus may have been involved. But he said hiring an officer in Lake Oswego would not have hinged on the single recommendation made by Timeus as a corporal.

'I have zero concern about Terry Timeus' ability to recruit good police officers for the police department. Whatever recommendations he made on behalf of a friend 17 years ago are irrelevant at this time,' said Jordan.

Losness, however, felt otherwise. As he worked through a series of jobs, eventually finding a career with a graphics company, he said watching Timeus become chief of police in his hometown was salt in a wound.

'It was really discouraging to see certain people thrive when other people were never even given an opportunity. I genuinely felt kind of ashamed to see a side of that,' he said. 'I would say it's up to the people of West Linn and Lake Oswego if there's more to be done. I'm only one person and I don't want this to be about me. If they want to accept that these people work for their city, that's their choice.'

'Some issues'

Since this newspaper first reported that the Washington County Sheriff's Office found Wrisley assaulted Kay Vandagriff in her home while on duty in 1992, elected officials in Lake Oswego have declined to comment directly on the situation.

Lake Oswego Mayor Jack Hoffman said he would meet with City Manager Alex McIntyre next week to discuss a response to this series and preview next steps for the city council.

Donna Jordan, a city councilor in Lake Oswego who is not related to West Linn City Manager Chris Jordan, said the city council is expecting input soon and will likely be involved in any revision to hiring policies or other changes in the police department.

'I'm concerned that we have some issues that probably need to be clarified but I am not sure they are as intense' as reported, she said.

Jordan said she is familiar with the kind of nondisclosure agreements signed by the city because similar agreements have previously allowed schools to cover up misbehavior by teachers.

'I think they are finally figuring out that those kinds of things don't work, that they do come back to bite you if the person is the wrong kind of person to begin with,' Jordan said.

Wrisley, who signed a nondisclosure agreement with the Washington County Sheriff's Office sealing Vandagriff's allegations in 1993, now runs the firearms department at the Lake Oswego Police Department. He is credited with reviving the department's K-9 unit with two dogs in January 2008. A year ago, he attended the Executive Leadership Institute in the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University to acquire management skills.

Because an officer with his background could create problems for prosecutors if called to testify in court, Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote said his office would launch its own, independent inquiry into Wrisley's prior arrest and the alleged assault on Kay Vandagriff, likely within a month.

The liability problems Wrisley could cause for the police department have already been at issue. In Portland, a federal prosecutor revoked a subpoena for Wrisley in a case against a dope dealer in February 1993, concerned the sexual assault allegations by Vandagriff would compromise the prosecution of a marijuana grower and dealer. The case against the man was instead dropped.

Wrisley's history has also been brought up in another case involving the city of Lake Oswego. At the time of Wrisley's arrest for the alleged assault on his wife, the city was defending a police brutality suit involving a group of officers who responded to calls about a man directing traffic on Pilkington Road Sept. 3, 1998 at the time.

According to the lawsuit, the officers - including Wrisley - followed a mentally ill man suspected of directing the traffic. They entered his home, then fought with him inside. A court later determined the officers had no legal right to enter the house without a warrant, but issues about whether the man was improperly dealt with after he assaulted police inside the home were still winding their way through legal channels.

After Wrisley's arrest, an attorney for the plaintiff sought records regarding his October 2000 suspension from the police department. The case was settled eight months later for $80,000.

While Wrisley continues in his position as lieutenant, Vandagriff said she is glad that the Washington County Sheriff's Office investigation of his alleged assault on her has finally come to light.

'I never knew that the sheriff's office believed me. It was just reassurance that I did everything right back then,' she said. 'It was nice to know and have reassurance from the county that they did believe me and they stand by it.'

Vandagriff now runs a liquor store for the state of Oregon and lives a quiet life with her husband. She did not know that Wrisley had become a police officer after leaving the sheriff's office until she was contacted by a reporter earlier this year. Though Vandagriff initially declined to be interviewed for this story, she changed her mind.

'There's a reason this came up and as long as I'm alive to give some substance to it and some validity, then that's what it's all about. And it's still about the same things. It's still about the victims,' said Vandagriff.

To prepare for this series, she said she talked with her boss and several co-workers about the 17-year-old allegations against Wrisley and also told her son, now grown.

'It was definitely worth it if it helps anyone else to know they are not alone,' she said.

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