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Documents show Kitsap prosecutor reviewed union's claims of misdeeds by Police Chief Fehlman, says no laws were broken

The city of Bainbridge Island asked the Kitsap County Prosecutor's Office to review charges of unlawful conduct by Bainbridge Island Police Chief Jon Fehlman that were raised by members of the city's police union, according to documents released Tuesday by the city.

In a confidential memo sent to the city on Aug. 9, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Russell Hauge said no laws had been broken and said his office would not attempt to prosecute Fehlman.

Officials of the Bainbridge Island Police Guild had claimed that Fehlman had broken state laws following the union's vote of "no confidence" in the chief in June.

Before Tuesday, city officials had never acknowledged that county law enforcement officials were reviewing the guild's accusations.

The prosecutor's office looked into five allegations of wrongdoing that were raised by the Bainbridge Island Police Guild.

The police union claimed Fehlman had failed to report two collisions that involved police vehicles; that Fehlman had obtained confidential license plates for his police vehicle and used the vehicle for personal use; that Fehlman had given police files to the city manager or had files turned over the the city manager; that Fehlman had not accounted for advance travel funds he had been given to attend a conference in 2009; and that Fehlman had lied under oath during the Ostling civil lawsuit against the city.

In his memo, Hauge said it was not a crime for failing to report an accident, and law enforcement officers who do not make a report of a traffic accident have not committed a criminal offense.

Hauge also said it was not a crime to use confidential license plates on a vehicle that is used for official business but is also used for personal use.

The deputy prosecutor also noted there was no evidence that Fehlman had provided police files to the city manager, but also raised the question that "the city manager, as the direct supervisor of the chief of the police, may, as a matter of law or policy, have access to police department files."

Hauge also said the failure to follow proper accounting procedures on the use of advance travel funds was not against the law.

Evidence was also lacking on the allegation, he said.

"It is unknown if the amount paid to Chief Fehlman for advance travel was utilized or if there were, in fact, excess funds from the conference," Hauge said in the memo.

Hauge also cited "insufficient evidence" to purse a criminal charge that Fehlman made false statements during a sworn deposition in the Ostling civil rights case.

The Ostling family sued the city of Bainbridge Island, and the lawsuit also named Fehlman as a defendant, following the police shooting of Douglas Ostling in October 2010. A Bainbridge police officer shot Ostling during a 911 call to the family home, and the family won a $1 million judgement against the city earlier this year for its failure to properly train officers to handle incidents involving the mentally ill.

The union had alleged that Fehlman had said an officer had been given an oral reprimand after the shooting, which the guild said never happened.

Hauge noted that the lieutenant who was disciplined said that Fehlman had expressed displeasure with the lieutenant's part in the Ostling case.

"A reasonable person could find that this conversation constituted an 'oral reprimand' as stated by Chief Fehlman," Hauge wrote. "It is highly unlikely that a criminal jury would find the statement to be false beyond a reasonable doubt."

Officials of the Bainbridge Island Police Guild had claimed that Fehlman had broken state laws following the union's vote of "no confidence" in the chief in June.

Before Tuesday, city officials had never acknowledged that county law enforcement officials were reviewing the guild's accusations.

 

 

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