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Former county planning director Craig Ladiser pleads guilty in assault

Under a deal with prosecutors, Ladiser could receive no jail time.

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By Noah Haglund
Herald Writer
SEATTLE -- Former Snohomish County planning director Craig Ladiser pleaded guilty Tuesday to a drunken assault at a building-industry golf tournament, bringing partial closure to a year of tumult for county leaders.
Ladiser pleaded guilty to one count each of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation and indecent exposure. Both are misdemeanors.
The charges stem from Ladiser exposing himself and rubbing his bare genitals against a woman's leg during a June 2009 golf tournament in Redmond.
The plea was entered before King County Superior Court Judge Palmer Robinson, who scheduled sentencing for Sept. 3.
Under an agreement reached with King County prosecutors, Ladiser could receive suspended sentences and no jail time. However, the judge is not bound by the agreement.
The offenses carry up to a year in the county jail.
Ladiser entered a so-called Alford plea, meaning he was not admitting guilt but acknowledging a jury would likely convict him as charged. He maintained he was too intoxicated to remember what happened.
"Mr. Ladiser has no independent recollection of the truth of what's in there," his defense attorney, Ralph Hurvitz, told the judge in reference to legal paperwork for the case.
The woman Ladiser assaulted is a building-industry lobbyist. The golf tournament was hosted by her employer, the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties. Ladiser was playing as a guest of the builders group.
Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon fired Ladiser about two months later, after conducting an investigation. King County authorities charged Ladiser in March.
The episode created a chain of public-image problems for Reardon and contributed to the resignation this year of two high-level officials in his administration.
It also raised questions over the appearance of a cozy relationship between the county planning department and the building industry. Public records showed that Master Builders executive officer Sam Anderson discouraged the woman from pursuing a complaint against Ladiser and tried to keep the planning director in his job.
Reardon and his staff have said nobody from Reardon's administration had any contact with the builders group about the incident. Records show some top county officials early on were aware of the pressure the woman faced and of Anderson's desire to keep Ladiser at his county post.
The case elevated scrutiny of sexual-harassment complaints about planning staff Ladiser had managed. Despite several complaints, none resulted in punishment.
The attorney in charge of investigating workplace harassment complaints for the county resigned ahead of a report that found he often failed to keep records and sometimes kept employees waiting years for resolution of their complaints.
Reardon's former top deputy, Mark Soine, took blame for the lapses and soon resigned as well.
Ladiser, who turns 60 today, has since moved to Grandview in Eastern Washington. He's been seeking treatment for alcoholism, the court was told.
Under the plea agreement, King County senior deputy prosecuting attorney Sean O'Donnell recommended suspending Ladiser's jail time, so long as he stays out of trouble for two years and keeps the court informed about his progress in alcohol treatment.
Although the assault was sexually motivated, the offense does not require Ladiser to be on the sex-offender registry.
Reardon hired Ladiser shortly after taking office 2004. At that time, Ladiser already had faced problems over his treatment of a female colleague.
In the 1980s, Ladiser worked for Bothell for about two years, becoming the city's assistant public works director. He resigned in 1985 after a woman who worked as the department's receptionist and secretary quit her job of nearly eight years, complaining about his repeated sexual advances, city records show.
Among other things, an investigation found that Ladiser pressured the woman for sex and repeatedly asked her at work to remove her blouse. She said he retaliated with harassment when she rebuffed his advances.
Bothell's investigation concluded Ladiser engaged in improper behavior for a supervisor but stopped short of deciding it was sexual harassment. After Bothell, Ladiser went to work as a Snohomish County planner from 1986 until 1994, when he resigned. Next, he worked about 10 years as a Seattle city planner. Officials there say there are no records of disciplinary problems.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465;
Story tags » CrimeProsecutionSex CrimesSnohomish County government

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