Chiefs’ resignations point to ‘dysfunction’ in King County Sheriff’s Office

Aug 13, 2019, 2:49 PM | Updated: 11:14 pm
LEAD, 5th LD, king county, Covington...
(King County Sheriff's Office)
(King County Sheriff's Office)

Two division chiefs in the King County Sheriff’s Office, appointed by Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht, resigned within a month of each other because of what they describe as a dysfunctional department.

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According to documents obtained through a public disclosure request, Chief of Field Operations Lisa Mulligan left on July 1 out of frustration with the direction of the sheriff’s office.

The resignation letter has sharp criticism for Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht and Undersheriff Scott Somers.

“I have come to this after countless hours of deliberating over the current management culture we are operating within and have created for our subordinates. I will make an attempt to outline my concerns but admit that I find it difficult to pinpoint one particular problem. There are many and they all lead me to know with clarity, that we are not an effective management team. Nor are we being led, encouraged or supported to become one. Sadly, with no efforts in place to try to overcome the dysfunction, I believe we are destined to continue down this futile path, with no end in sight.”

“The team you selected, although still learning, is skilled and talented; capable of leading great outcomes for the department on your behalf,” the letter continued. “Yet you seem consistently reluctant to trust them to do the work or encourage them to lead in a way that could make us all better. As a result, I fear that our once thriving department will fail to thrive into the future.”

Chief of the Intelligence Unit Jerrell Wills also left the sheriff’s office, on July 31.

A source, who KIRO Radio agreed to not name in this report, shared a 12-page complaint submitted by Wills to the Internal Investigations Unit titled, “Threatening Space.”

Among other things, Wills alleges Sheriff Johanknecht was rude and condescending, and that Undersheriff Scott Somers was a retaliatory bully.

Wills alleges that over 14 months working beneath Undersheriff Somers, he was bullied and marginalized. He also noted that the work environment was so toxic, he felt unsafe as a black man. He claimed the undersheriff attempted to humiliate Wills into submission, and when he wouldn’t submit, the undersheriff went on a retaliatory campaign to undermine his authority and ability to his job.

Wills’ complaint also alleges he had requested an investigation into how the undersheriff had been treating him. His case is currently under litigation.

Both Mulligan and Wills have since taken positions with the county’s training facility.

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Chiefs’ resignations point to ‘dysfunction’ in King County Sheriff’s Office