West Linn Police Scandal: How did we get here?
Much has been written about the West Linn Police Department's recent scandal involving former Police Chief Terry Timeus. But while the scandal itself — which involves West Linn officers at Timeus' request falsely arresting an African-American man as an favor for Timeus' friend — has sparked headlines across the country, following the story from the beginning can be a challenge.
Below is a chronological list of stories by Pamplin Media Group that brought us from Timeus' departure from West Linn three years ago to the latest in the scandal.
This story will be updated as more reporting is done in this story.
Let's start with Timeus' resignation as West Linn police chief. Timeus had been placed on leave following an investigation that he was caught driving while drunk. In October, it was announced that Timeus would not face charges of driving while intoxicated.
He formally retired from West Linn on Halloween day, though allegations have since been made that he may have extorted a larger severance from then-City Manager Eileen Stein (more on that in a moment).
Things were quiet for a few months after Timeus' departure until July, when Portland resident Michael Fesser filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming Timeus had two detectives, Tony Reeves and Mike Boyd, investigate him at the request of Timeus' friend, Fesser's boss Eric Benson. Fesser maintained that he was called racist slurs at his workplace and said Timeus investigated him at Benson's request after Fesser spoke up about the hostile work environment.
Hours after his arrest, Fesser was fired from A&B Towing.
That suit eventually found its way to federal court.
Fesser also sued Benson and the towing company, A&B Towing, and was awarded over $400,000.
This is where things really pick up. On Feb. 11, the city of West Linn agreed to pay Fesser $600,000 in a settlement. While it didn't admit guilt, the settlement brought Fesser's allegations back into the public eye.
The Oregonian reported that with no cause other than their chief's instructions, the detectives used audio and video equipment to survey Fesser as he managed an auction for the towing company on Feb. 25, 2017.
He was later arrested and released eight hours later. No charges were ever filed against Fesser.
While Fesser was fired from A&B Towing, it was actually West Linn's Boyd and Reeves who informed him he was no longer employed by the towing company when they summoned him to the West Linn police station to collect his seized belongings after his release.
After news of the settlement broke, lawmakers called for the U.S. attorney's office to look into the case, and in the days since, district attorneys from Multnomah and Clackamas County have called for a federal criminal investigation. As it turned out, federal investigators were already looking into the matter.
Things haven't been easy for West Linn's current police chief Terry Kruger, either. Kruger came under scrutiny after he called one of the officers involved in the scandal 'a victim,' despite Fesser's complaint that the detective involved, Det. Tony Reeves, falsely arrested him and engaged in racial discrimination. Since taking over as chief in 2018, Kruger has worked to bring more diversity to the department.
A&B Towing, the company Fesser worked for when he was falsely arrested, did occassionally do business in West Linn, but Councilor Jules Walters said the city stopped using the company last September, before the settlement was announced. A clause in its contract with the city means it can still operate in West Linn through March.
The scandal has, not surprisingly, stirred the ire of West Linn residents and elected officials. Mayor Russ Axelrod wrote in a statement that he felt "disgust and dismay" over the incidents. Residents at a recent city council meeting described the scandal as West Linn's 'Chernobyl.'
Investigations in Timeus' time as West Linn police chief have since uncovered other problems, including a three-year span when fellow officers in the department raised alarms about flagrant misconduct by Timeus and Reeves, as well as former Lt. Mike Stradley. Timeus faced charges of racism in 2008 when he worked for the Lake Oswego Police Department.
"Timeus is very well known for his 'off color' humor and has been documented using the word 'n-----'" on the job, the complaint read, while providing witness names.
The 100-page report was never publically released. Lake Oswego officials sued reporters that attempted to investigate the complaints and West Linn city officials later said they never read the report at all, a tactic the city used to keep the report from being publicly available under public records law.
Clackamas County senior deputy district attorney David Paul said West Linn's later attempts to keep the complaints under wraps had the "appearance of being designed to prevent public disclosure of the document."
On Feb. 25, 2020, the West Linn Tidings and Portland Tribune reported that West Linn City Council President Teri Cummings has since gone to the FBI with allegations Timeus may have extorted money from the city and then-City Manager Eileen Stein during his 2017 severance negotiations.
This story will be updated with future reporting.
By Geoff Pursinger
Follow Geoff at @ReporterGeoff
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