Attorney general not filing criminal charges against former Federal Way mayor over campaign signs | Update

The 'sign jail' at the police department's auxiliary building on South 333rd Street, across from City Hall.
— image credit: File photo

The Attorney General’s Office is not planning to file criminal charges against former Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest, who was caught removing city-confiscated campaign signs last September.

“The actions of the suspect, while perhaps viewed as suspicious to the reporting officer given the time of evening when the suspect chose to retrieve his campaign signs, do not amount to a crime,” said Scott Marlow, assistant attorney general, in a letter he sent to the King County Prosecutor’s Office on Jan. 9.

He noted the Washington State Patrol’s initial investigation revealed a “complete lack of criminal activity in this matter.”

Priest said the outcome of the investigation “confirms what I’ve said all along … that I acted legally and appropriately when I picked up the signs.”

Priest said he appreciates the work that the state agencies did during this investigation, “unfortunately, the completion of the review comes two months after the political damage was done.”

The investigation was launched after a Federal Way police officer observed Priest removing campaign signs from the so-called “sign jail” across from City Hall just before 10 p.m. on Sept. 24, 2013.

The city stores confiscated signs at the sign jail that are illegally placed in the city. Sign owners must pay a fine to get the signs back.

The police officer said it appeared that Priest was stealing the signs because the activity took place at night. Video surveillance shows Priest removing the signs from the unlocked area, wiping each sign down and placing them in his car.

However, Priest paid the appropriate amount for the signs and received authorization to retrieve the signs after hours, the Attorney General’s Office concluded.

“The individual responsible for administration of the sign policy in the city of Federal Way set the suspect’s signs aside for the specific purpose of them being picked up after hours,” Marlow wrote. “This arrangement was clearly not passed along to the police officer who witnessed and reported what he believed to be suspicious activity.”

The matter was eventually referred to the attorney general in November, due to potential conflict of interest.




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