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Chief reinstated, cleared of charges

Port Orchard city officials were still reeling Thursday from the news that Police Chief Al Townsend had been put on paid administrative leave Oct. 31, pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

Then came word — as of 5 p.m. Thursday — Townsend had been fully reinstated and the unknown employee who filed the original misconduct allegations against him is the subject of a brand-new investigation.

“They are now false allegations — false reporting,” said city attorney Loren Combs.

Prior to Thursday’s revelation, the mayor’s office, which had taken responsibility for the investigation, kept the rest of the city staff on a strictly need-to-know basis. Most of the city council members remained largely in the dark, even following an executive session held last Wednesday, at which Townsend’s suspension was discussed.

“We questioned over and over and they said they didn’t want us to know anything so we couldn’t get in trouble (by talking about it),” said Councilman Todd Cramer, who chairs the council’s public safety committee.

Mayor Jay Weatherill left on a hunting trip early Thursday morning and was not available to comment.

What is clear thus far is that prior to Oct. 31, a female staffperson at the police department filed a formal complaint of misconduct against Townsend. The city then responded by removing Townsend from his duties while the matter was sifted to the bottom.

The woman who filed the complaint was reportedly the subject of an earlier investigation due to a complaint filed by another co-worker. The city will not say whether the two complaints — and the new investigation — are linked.

Sgt. Mark Duncan, who was asked to serve as acting chief during Townsend’s absence, said as of right now, Townsend is the only one to have been put on administrative leave as a result of this series of complaints.

Because everyone at the city is under strict orders not to discuss the matter, details are sketchy. Even the identity of the outside police agency called in to conduct the investigation is being kept a secret until further notice.

Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer, however, confirmed his agency’s offer to assist in the investigation was turned down.

Townsend is currently in California on a pre-planned vacation and was not available to comment on either the original allegations or his reinstatement.

“We’re trying desperately to get ahold of him,” Combs said.

However, Duncan said the move to suspend Townsend, which came without prior notice, shocked many at the department.

“It’s a little bit of a surprise for everybody,” he said. “This is something that’s very unexpected to have happened.”

Duncan said he was never told how long Townsend’s administrative leave would last — he said he heard the news only after Mayor Pro-Tem Carolyn Powers signed the order canceling Townsend’s suspension. He said the move to remove Townsend — albeit temporarily — has had a noticeable effect on the department but said morale has not been significantly affected.

Rumors, however, are flying, especially now that a new, unspecified investigation has been launched against one of its members.

“I think the department is aware of the situation to a greater extent than what’s been in the newspaper,” Duncan said. “It’s probably a little stressful for everybody.”

Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Hauge said personnel investigations are typically kept confidential until the point charges need to be filed. If no criminal conduct is uncovered, he said, it’s unlikely the results of the investigation will ever be made part of the public record.

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