NKSD superintendent lead suspect in political sign thefts

Scott Henden hid on the side of the road and waited.

He and Kim Gerlach wanted to find out who had been taking their vote no on the school bond signs.

They, along with the rest of Kitsap County, were shocked when they found out that at least on this day it allegedly was none other than North Kitsap School District superintendent herself Laurynn Evans.

It’s not the first time Evans has had issues in the district. There was a resounding vote of no confidence by the teachers’ union. And there was a proposal to cancel a high school graduation ceremony for indigenous students in the name of budget cuts.

And now, on Feb 1, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office listed Evans as the primary suspect in a case involving the theft and disposal of campaign signs against the Feb. 13 NKSD bond measure.

Evans denied the allegations to law enforcement, saying she was framed by Henden and Gerlach, but did not respond to multiple inquiries by the Kitsap News Group. But she was reportedly caught on camera destroying the signs.

The case started when Henden and Gerlach observed that four of their campaign signs disappeared in as many weeks from a particular spot along Little Boston Road in Kingston. Henden said the signs seemed to be going early in the morning — so he covered them in blue grease in an attempt to deter the thefts, set up some game cameras “in the stickers” off the road and waited.

Gerlach, who was ill at the time, waited in a vehicle about a quarter mile away.

Sure enough, around 6:30 a.m. Jan. 26, a video shows a woman with medium-length blonde hair wearing a black down jacket at the scene, pulled up two signs, tossed them into the back of a gray Ford Ranger and closed the bed cover.

After the woman left, Henden called Gerlach to alert her to the culprit’s truck. Gerlach followed the vehicle. The truck briefly stopped on Stottlemeyer Road, Gerlach observed, but she lost track of it.

Meanwhile, Henden caught up to them in another vehicle, and when all three came to a stoplight, he moved to confront the truck driver. He jumped out of his car, shined a flashlight into the driver’s side window and pulled out his phone to take a picture. What he captured shocked him.

“I’ve never been within five feet of her, that I’m aware of,” Henden said. “I held up the light, saw her face, she put her hand up to block my view, and then she took off. I had like a three- to five-second look at her, but my initial impression was, ‘Yes, that certainly looks like her.’”

Ryan Cleaver of the sheriff’s office issued a report that completed the story. The truck pulled into the Poulsbo Sons of Norway parking lot, at which point Henden and Gerlach called police. The Kingtson-North Kitsap Rotary Club was holding a meeting at the hall, which Evans attended.

Sheriff’s reports say Poulsbo Police Chief Ron Harding arrived on scene and stated that he received a phone call from Evans asking him to come down there. He stated that he wasn’t trying to persuade the investigation in any way and left a short time later. Evans reportedly told sheriff personnel that she didn’t want to be around Henden and Gerlach as she was afraid of them, and they are out to get her.

After the meeting, law enforcement questioned Evans, who confirmed that the Ford Ranger was hers, but denied that she had taken any signs. Instead, she said she had lots of pro-bond signs that she intended to distribute because her signs had been taken down as well. Officers did not find any anti-Proposition 1 signs in Evans’ truck bed, and indeed saw a pile of pro-bond signs and a mallet. However, they also observed some “greenish-blue” grease on the tailgate — consistent with the grease put on the anti-Prop. 1 signs by Henden and Gerlach, organizers of that campaign.

A sheriff’s sergeant recovered two anti-bond signs in the bushes along Stottlemeyer Road. And a deputy later found a gardening glove and a yellow towel wrapped in paper with the message “SUPPORT NK STUDENTS & SCHOOLS VOTE YES” — all covered in blue-green grease — in a nearby dumpster. Henden and Gerlach said over 100 No on Prop. 1 signs have been lost or destroyed. But the sheriff’s office has only been alerted to this incident, KCSO representative Kevin McCarty said.

Political conflict in North Kitsap is not unheard of, NKSD representative Jenn Markaryan said. But as a public entity, she said it’s not the district’s place to get involved. “Every election, including elections for political candidates, experiences campaign signs going missing, being knocked down, etc. The North Kitsap community is not alone in this behavior,” Markaryan said. “School districts are not involved in political campaigns and do not have any oversight for any political campaigns. We are bound by law to provide factual information regarding the details of a measure to voters that does not indicate in any way how they should vote.”

Tension in the NKSD has come to a head just as the community considers its first bond measure in 23 years. The bond would provide critical updates to some school infrastructure, but some community members argue the projects are missing crucial details. For instance, the elementary school that serves the Suquamish tribe, Suquamish Elementary, is not included. In response, the tribe has elected not to endorse the measure.

“The Tribe has a track record of supporting public education in North Kitsap. However, excluding the Suquamish Elementary School from the bond measure is not equitable for children in our community, nor for the hardworking school staff who educate our students,” tribal leaders say in a statement. “We are confident the district can return to voters at another time with a bond measure that we can support.”

Online extra

Video 1

Video 2

Teal-colored grease from a political sign recovered from the bushes along Stottlemeyer Road. Scott Henden and Kim Gerlach covered their political signs with ‘greenish-blue’ grease as a theft deterrent.

Teal-colored grease from a political sign recovered from the bushes along Stottlemeyer Road. Scott Henden and Kim Gerlach covered their political signs with ‘greenish-blue’ grease as a theft deterrent.