As reported in the Seattle Times this morning, a former King County Sherriff’s deputy has accused Sheriff John Urquhart of unwanted sexual contact.
Renton police are now investigating the claim of “unwanted touching with sexual motivation” from former King County deputy Brian Barnes, who says Urquhart groped him after a dinner conversation in 2014. Urquhart vehemently denies the allegation and claims it is politically motivated just days before an election.
The same accuser, former deputy Brian Barnes, has also complained that Urquhart improperly released un-redacted personnel and human resources information to members of the media in a vigorous effort to defend himself and discredit Barnes. The King County Ombudsman’s Office has confirmed it is investigating Barnes’ complaint, which he first sent to the King County Sheriff's Office internal investigations unit. The Sheriff's Office investigations unit then requested that the Ombudsman's Office investigate, and the Ombudsman's Office opened the case based on that request.
Urquhart maintains he did not inappropriately disclose Barnes’ records. “His personnel file was not accessed by anyone, other than as part of the public disclosure process and I had nothing to do with that, or even see what was sent,” Urquhart said.
A female former deputy who accused Urquhart of rape and whose name has not been published in the media made a similar complaint to the Ombudsman in February 2017.
The rape allegation against Urquhart, and Urquhart's handling of it, has been covered extensively by the Seattle Times. Urquhart denied the accusation of a former deputy who said he raped her 14 years ago. The King County prosecutor declined to file rape charges in the case, citing both a lack of evidence and the statute of limitations.
But the first accuser also filed a complaint with the King County Ombudsman’s Office, which later found that that the sheriff had a conflict of interest when he decided last year not to have the Sheriff's Office document or investigate the former deputy’s rape allegation against him. The accuser’s original complaint, however, also detailed another claim: That Urquhart disseminated research on the accuser, including a filing in a divorce case that discussed her mental health, to the media.
"[W]hile Urquhart would not allow [the Internal Affairs Unit] to investigate the rape claim, he and [King County Sheriff's Office chief of staff Chris] Barringer apparently did their own investigation and had a secret file compiled which he then personally delivered to the media, along with a statement that I am suffering from severe mental illness," the accuser wrote to the Ombudsman in February of this year.
In an e-mail, Urquhart told The Stranger that all the research he prepared on his first accuser was not improperly shared. He said the research he compiled was subject to public disclosure, minus personal e-mails and text messages.
“I was prepared to share this document with the Seattle Police Department and the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, both of which have cleared me as well finding zero evidence existed that any crime occurred at all,” he wrote.
That Urquhart had compiled and delivered a file on his accuser was first made public in a Seattle Times piece reported by Lewis Kamb in December of 2016. Kamb wrote that Urquhart, unsolicited, delivered a binder to the Times containing court records, background, and communication between the accuser and Urquhart that took place after the date of the alleged rape.
Yesterday, the Times additionally reported that political consultant Monisha Harrell says she was offered a medical file on Urquhart’s first accuser by Urquhart’s chief of staff, Chris Barringer. Barringer has disputed this allegation, claiming that a medical file on the first accuser never existed and that Harrell was confused about the nature of their conversation.
Nevertheless, the first accuser, citing Harrell’s claim, obtained a temporary sexual assault protection order against Urquhart this week from King County Superior Court that prohibits the sheriff from being within 500 feet of her.
On October 13, the King County ombudsman opened a separate investigation into the sheriff after a second accuser, former deputy Barnes, claimed Urquhart released un-redacted personnel information about him to the media.
The deputy wrote to the King County Ombudsman on October 12 that the sheriff "dropped off a dossier at the Seattle Times two days ago which contained un-redacted personnel and human resource information."
The Stranger also received a collection of documents more than 300 pages long provided by the sheriff on Barnes last month, including text messages between the accuser and Chris Barringer, Facebook posts, court documents that preceded the accuser's employment at King County, and investigations into complaints the second accuser had made as an employee.
Urquhart said that “nothing was released that wasn't already released to the Times or subject to active public records request, or anything that would violate state law or KCSO policy.”
This post has been updated.