A Lake Forest Park city council candidate is under investigation by the Washington State Patrol after a female employee said he pursued an inappropriate relationship with her that began with an invitation to take her to an “alternate universe.”
Alan Kiest, was placed on reassignment from his position as a high-level state employee with the Washington Department of Social and Health Serivces on April 14, according to a letter obtained by KIRO Radio through a public disclosure request. Kiest was in charge of operations at the King Eastside Community Service Office (CSO) in Bellevue, where people apply for government assistance.
According to the department, Kiest has been a DSHS employee since 1970 and head of the Bellevue CSO since 1995. He is currently seeking election to the city council in Lake Forest Park, where he served five consecutive terms before losing a bid for reelection in 2009.
After a nearly two-month long “On Assignment” investigation, KIRO Radio has uncovered details behind the incident that led to Kiest’s transfer out of the DSHS office in Bellevue.
In early August, shortly before Kiest was transferred out of the Bellevue CSO, KIRO Radio was contacted by multiple sources within DSHS who spoke on the condition of anonymity. According to the sources, Kiest, who is 64-years-old, made unwanted advances toward a 25-year-old employee. His actions culminated in an incident that caused her to quit her job, sources said.
The woman agreed to speak with KIRO Radio, under the condition that her name not be released to the public.
The woman was hired on at the Bellevue CSO as a financial services specialist in June 2012. It was her job to determine financial eligibility for cash, food, and medical benefits.
“Alan was in charge of my supervisors,” she said. “If you put it into a school setting, he would be basically the principal of the office.”
During her time at the Bellevue CSO, she said she received more attention from Kiest than others in her position and that Kiest would routinely call her into private meetings, where the conversation became personal.
“He would talk about timeshares he had in Hawaii, a certain diet he’s on, supplements he’s taking,” she said. “I knew it was probably not the best way to use our time, but he’s my boss. I just kind of put up with it because, what was I supposed to do?”
Ben Hu, 35, of Federal Way, was an employee at the Bellevue CSO from June 2012 to November 2012.
Hu, who also worked as a financial services specialist, said he sat in the cubicle across from the woman and witnessed Kiest act inappropriately toward her on multiple occasions.
“Alan would be stopping by her cubicle just about every day,” he said. “He would start asking her personal questions about where she lives, what’s her living status, does she have a boyfriend?”
Hu said he lost his job at DSHS in mid-November 2012, but was not given a reason. He said he suspects that he was let go because he witnessed inappropriate behavior on the part of Kiest.
Around the same time, the woman said Kiest asked if she would like to take a temporary position outside of the Bellevue CSO. She would remain under his direction as a financial specialist, but would work out of a clinic in North Bend and handle cases from the Snoqualmie tribe until someone else could be hired on a permanent basis.
“Alan had asked to meet with me and asked me if I wanted to take up the opportunity,” she said. “And I ultimately decided that I would.”
The woman worked out of the clinic until August of this year, when she said Kiest came to North Bend to meet with her in private. She was told about the meeting in advance, and said she asked Kiest if he would bring someone else with him because she didn’t want to be alone together.
“I offered to have one of the other supervisors come with, a female, but he said ‘No, no. It will just be me,'” she said. “I just thought it would be kind of awkward because he mentioned that he wanted to have lunch and so, I didn’t want it to be just me and him.”
The meeting started off much like the others they’d had, she said. Initially, he talked about work and how things had been going at the clinic. When lunch came around, the two ate in her office.
“He closed the door, and it was quiet at first,” she said.
She said things became strange when he asked if he could take her “into an alternate universe,” for a little while.
“Eventually it got to him saying how he wanted to pursue a ‘friendship’ with me, and if that would be OK with me,” she said, not certain what he meant by “friendship.”
“But then, it got to the point where he said, ‘I would be willing to be relocated, transferred to a different office, so we could pursue this ‘friendship,'” she said.
The woman said Kiest told her he wanted to take her to the symphony, watch movies with her at his home, and introduce her to his granddaughter.
“I realized it was crossing the line and I realized he was choosing his words very carefully,” she said. “When he said ‘friendship,’ he meant a relationship.”
She said Kiest ended their conversation by telling her she had a week to decide whether she wanted to pursue a “friendship,” and if she did, he would call his boss and ask to be relocated to avoid the appearance of favoritism were she to get a promotion.
“He gave me his number, he asked for my number and then he said, ‘OK, give me a call in a week,'” she said.
The woman reported the incident to her immediate supervisors and quit her job.
“At the time, I just wanted everything to be over and that meant completely removing myself from that environment,” she said. “I just wanted everything to be over, and wish it had never happened.”
The woman has assisted DSHS in their administrative investigation against Kiest, which arose after she reported the incident. The investigation is being conducted by the Washington State Patrol. She said she was reluctant to speak with the media, but did so because of Kiest’s current candidacy for public office.
“He probably should not be running for public office,” she said.
“He’s very calculated. He chooses his words very carefully,” she said. “I don’t think he should be employed by the state anymore. I would be shocked if he still was after this whole ordeal.”
Alan Kiest declined to speak with KIRO Radio about the incident that led to his transfer out of the Bellevue CSO, citing the ongoing state patrol investigation.
As part of the transfer, Kiest has been ordered not to have contact with the woman and to stay away from both the Bellevue Community Service Office and the North Bend Tribal Medical Clinic, where the encounter occurred. He was also ordered not to retaliate against the woman or any others who come forward on her behalf. He has been assigned to work at the Seattle Field Office of the Division of Child Support until the investigation is complete.
“This assignment is not a disciplinary action or presumption that misconduct has occurred,” DSHS Regional Administrator Deborah Doyle wrote to Kiest in a letter. “You will be provided an opportunity to respond to the allegation.”
During the course of the “On Assignment” investigation into the incident involving the young woman, KIRO Radio learned of other allegations against Kiest that have occurred during his tenure with DSHS. KIRO Radio will report on those allegations on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. on the Dori Monson Show.
“KIRO Radio On Assignment” features in-depth, investigative reports on a variety of topics including government accountability, consumer advocacy and the criminal justice system. To send a KIRO Radio reporter “On Assignment,” email firstname.lastname@example.org or use our online form.