Former Island County Sheriff’s deputy seeks $1.5 million


South Whidbey Record

Former Island County Sheriff’s deputy Jay Wallace has filed a $1.5 million claim for damages against Island County.

Wallace was fired in April 2006 by then-Sheriff Mike Hawley for false reporting and failing to follow the sheriff’s office protocol for 911 hang-up calls.

Wallace was on duty when he didn’t respond to a 911 call from a woman who later claimed she was held hostage and sexually assaulted in Freeland.

Wallace doggedly maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal. He even took a lie-detector test and said the results of the test showed he told the truth about the 911 incident.

In his claim, filed Feb. 13, Wallace continued to cast his firing as politically motivated by Island County’s former sheriff. Hawley did not seek re-election in 2006.

“Sheriff Hawley and the Island County Sheriff’s Department knowingly and intentionally disseminated to the public defamatory and false statements about Deputy Wallace,” according to the claim.

In the claim, Wallace alleged that Hawley targeted him politically after Wallace announced he would run for Hawley’s soon-to-be vacant sheriff’s position.

Wallace also claims that there was confusion within the management of the Island County Sheriff’s Office about how deputies should respond to 911 calls, his claim said.

The claim also alleges that Wallace was subject to negligent supervision and training.

Wallace said there was no credible evidence that proved he violated requirements of his responsibilities as a law enforcement officer.

Wallace also maintains he lost the election as a result of the negative publicity from his firing over the 911 controversy, the claim states.

Charges against the former deputy were filed by the state Attorney General’s Office on Aug. 28, 2006 after a lengthy criminal investigation by the Attorney General’s Office and Jerry Baker of the Oak Harbor Police Department.

In September 2006, Wallace pled not guilty in Island County Superior Court to charges of lying to police.

A year ago, in February 2007, a Superior Court judge tossed out the state’s criminal case against the former sheriff’s deputy.

Judge Vicki Churchill said a statement that former deputy Jay Wallace gave to a supervisor could not be used as evidence against him.

However, that decision came too late to save his campaign for sheriff.

Wallace lost the sheriff’s race by a huge margin and Sheriff Mark Brown was elected in November 2006.

The claim also alleges that Wallace was wrongfully terminated because the firing conflicts with the deputies’ union contract.

The claim further alleges that Hawley violated Wallace’s civil rights and employment rights.

In addition to being falsely arrested, the claim also alleges that Hawley embarked upon a defamation campaign.

“The defendants knowingly disseminated untrue information to third parties and or news reporters, embarrassing and accusing him of dishonesty in the performance of his duties as commissioned law enforcement officer,” the claim said.

The termination and defamation campaign also caused Wallace emotional distress, according to the claim.

Wallace is seeking $1,475,000 to cover past and future wages and benefits, attorneys’ fees, past and future medical expenses, plus general and punitive damages.

Sheriff Brown had no comment about the allegations.

“I don’t have any comment because that’s under litigation. I feel it’s inappropriate to comment at this time,” Brown said.

Wallace has 60 days under state law to file a lawsuit. That allows the county time to work out a settlement with Wallace.

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