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Bainbridge's top cop accused of gender bias; outside investigation finds none

Bainbridge Island Police Commander Sue Shultz was suspended due to allegations of gender bias and harassment, but an outside investigator hired by the city was unable to determine if Shultz mistreated two fellow officers in the department because they were women.

Shultz has been on paid leave since late November after city officials said she was under investigation after an unspecified complaint.

The details of Shultz's suspension amid internal allegations of improper behavior from fellow Bainbridge police officers came late Thursday, after city officials released documents sought under a public records request from the Bainbridge Island Review.

Bainbridge officials had earlier refused to release the records, and said they wanted to wait until a pre-disciplinary hearing was held Monday with Shultz.

The records released this week show that two female employees who had applied for the job for police commander, but were passed over in favor of Shultz, filed the complaint.

Despite the exonerating finding on the most vital piece of the complaint, the investigation did say that Shultz had "unfairly targeted" one or both of the two female officers and had treated them worse than male officers in the department.

Bainbridge officials blacked out the names of the female officers who filed the complaints.

In a response to the investigation, Shultz said in a Dec. 10 letter to the city that there had been hard feelings with some employees after she had gotten the commander's job, and she cited a long list of accomplishments since she joined the city's force in 2007.

Shultz described the pair who filed the complaint as "disgruntled."

She refuted each and every claim made by the two officers, and also noted that she had earlier complained and written a formal letter of complaint against one of the officers in February 2010 because of the officer's harassing and negative behavior toward Shultz after her promotion.

Shultz also cited numerous problems with the investigation of allegations against her conducted by Seabold Group, the Seattle-based firm that was secretly hired by the city to conduct the investigation on the two officer's claims.

Shultz said Seabold did little to look for evidence that ran counter to the claims raised by the two officers.

"If the Seabold report was the product and result of an investigation into the allegations of criminal wrong-doing, a prosecutor would not even consider criminal charges based on the poor quality of the report and investigation," Shultz said in her response to the city.

"This report would be completely unacceptable to a prosecutor," she wrote.

According to the investigation report, the two employees said the evidence of mistreatment included an incident where Shultz complained about how one woman's voice sounded on a police radio call.

Another allegation centered on a recollection that one of the Bainbridge police female officers had been written up for wearing a police jumpsuit when it wasn't appropriate, while a male officer received only a verbal warning for a similar uniform violation.

Another part of the complaint of wrongdoing: Shultz's negative reaction to hearing that officers had made jokes during radio transmissions about an emergency call for loose sheep on the island, and then telling Chief Jon Fehlman about it.

One other complaint, denied by Shultz, centered on a female officer getting "chewed out" for dying her hair.

The outside investigator also reviewed a complaint from one of the female officers about being questioned about a non-departmental pin she was wearing on her uniform.

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