Benton County Sheriff files a $4 Million claim on Benton County

BENTON COUNTY, WA - Benton County Sheriff Jerry Hatcher has filed a Standard Tort Claim Form to Benton County for "failing to meet its legal, moral, and ethical, responsibilities and obligations". 

The official Tort Claim from Sheriff Hatcher said "certain County Officials have violated the County Anti-Harassment/discrimination policy or have used a double standard in enforcing the policy, County Officials have failed to follow the law, uphold their oath of office and in some case violated various laws of the state of Washington". 

Hatcher specified allegations with the Prosecutors Office, HR, and Commissioners in the full claim below:

Benton County has issues a statement regarding Sheriff Hatcher’s claim against the County: 

"While the County’s standard procedure is to not comment on pending litigation or administrative claims, we recognize that Sheriff Hatcher’s claim against the County is a highly unusual event and therefore potentially of significant public interest and that, as such, a response is necessary. The County does not, in any way, agree with Sheriff Hatcher’s claims or believe that said claims hold any merit.

"The claims made by Sheriff Hatcher in his Administrative Claim in no way reflect what the County believes to be true and accurate and, as such, if Sheriff Hatcher files a formal lawsuit, the County will zealously defend against it. Ultimately, It will be up to the voters of Benton County to decide, during the August 3rd Primary Election, whether they support Sheriff Hatcher or recall him from office."

Benton County Prosecutor sent us his statement and supporting documents in response to Sheriff Hatcher's claims:

"I read Sheriff Hatcher’s complaint asking for Benton County taxpayers to pay him four million dollars.

"Many of his allegations are based on contacts with our office, and I thought it would be helpful to provide factual background and supporting documents.  His complaint is not linearly organized so I will address the different subjects of his complaint.

"Sheriff Hatcher makes a number of factually incorrect allegations concerning the domestic violence investigation and prosecution.  I am attaching documents and emails that give an accurate portrayal.  On September 16, 2019, Monica Hatcher contacted Commissioner Delvin to discuss concerns about Sheriff Hatcher.  Commissioner Delvin contacted me on September 17, 2019, to ask if there was any duty to follow up on information concerning the possibility of domestic violence committed by a law enforcement officer.  As I started my research, I was unaware of who the potential law enforcement officer was.

"RCW 10.99.090 requires mandatory immediate responses to allegations of domestic violence involving a law enforcement officer.  RCW 10.99.090 also required the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to develop a written policy on domestic violence allegedly committed by law enforcement officers. The statute required that the policy not only provide for mandatory, immediate responses, but also for prompt and impartial administrative and criminal investigations.  The Model Policy adopted by the Sheriffs and Police Chiefs requires that in the event of a report of domestic violence alleged to have been committed by the elected Sheriff, prompt notification will be made to the County Prosecutor.  RCW 10.99.090 and the Model policy are in the attachments to the October 2, 2019, email that is attached to this email.  Therefore, I had no choice under the law but to contact a law enforcement agency once Commissioner Delvin advised me of the statements by Ms. Hatcher, which were confirmed in a later meeting.  The Chief of the Washington State Patrol agreed, as he had the Washington State Patrol conduct an investigation.  I have attached the September 18, 2019, email between Chief John Batiste and myself.

"Sheriff Hatcher offers no legal authority for his claim that I did not have authority to contact the Washington State Patrol.  He does not acknowledge or discuss either RCW 10.99.090 or the Model Policy adopted by Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

Sheriff Hatcher falsely claims that I charged him with a crime.  An attached email between myself and Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell on October 4, 2019, includes the letter appointing Mr. Haskell and Spokane County as the Special Prosecutor on October 4, 2019.  I have also attached copies of court documents that show that Sheriff Hatcher was charged with a crime five days after that, on October 9, 2019, and that the charging was done by the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office.

"Sheriff Hatcher makes false allegations about the protection order that Ms. Hatcher obtained against him.  This was done pursuant to a civil dissolution case and was not part of the criminal case.  If there is any question about Ms. Hatcher’s wishes about the protection order, they can be answered by checking the current status of the protection order almost two years after it was entered, after many hearings in civil court.  Ms. Hatcher’s dissolution attorney obtained the order based on Ms. Hatcher’s declaration.  I still have not even read it.

"Sheriff Hatcher makes numerous allegations about whistleblowers.  Unfortunately, he identified them by name, which appears to be contrary to law.  Given the confidentiality and legal issues concerning whistleblowers, I will not reply in detail.  However, there are numerous emails that show our office’s follow-up on the whistleblower concerns.

"Sheriff Hatcher makes allegations about his being placed on a PID (“Potential Impeachment Disclosure”) or “Brady” list.  Attached emails show that on January 13, 2021, Staff Attorney Pam Loginsky of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys added me to her reply to an email from Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer who was President of the Association at the time.  The email initiated from an announcement by the Washington State Supreme Court that it would issue an opinion on the Hatcher recall case the next day.  Prosecutor Meyer asked about whether Sheriff Hatcher was on a Brady list.  I suggested that it would be better for outside prosecutors to review and make that decision.  The attached emails show that Prosecutor Meyer and Ms. Loginsky agreed.  Ms. Loginsky is an expert on Potential Impeachment Disclosure law and has taught law enforcement on the law.  They both concluded that the law required that Sheriff Hatcher be placed on the PID/Brady List.  Sheriff Hatcher was only placed on the list after this independent and neutral analysis.  Their decisions are attached to this email.

"Sheriff Hatcher next alleges that, “Mr. Miller has now restarted the 1.5-year-old investigation,” and that the case was taken away from Spokane County.  Again, attached emails show that allegation to be false.  The Washington State Patrol contacted me about the investigation on February 1, 2021, and that email is attached.  In response, I contacted Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell.  His reply is attached, and includes that in the interim, “His office has absorbed a significant percentage of Okanogan County cases and are exceptionally busy for what is likely to be a lengthy period.  I would suggest a call to the AG on this one.”  Following that, I contacted both John Hillman, the Chief of the Attorney General’s criminal division, and Jonathan Meyer, President of Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.  Pursuant to that, it was agreed that Mr. Meyer would make the decision as to who would act as Special Prosecutor.

"Sheriff Hatcher alleges that there was no follow-up on emails reporting an alleged violation of campaign laws that would have had significant impact on the validity of the recall signatures.  I have attached emails between myself and Kevin Morton that show that this is not true.  The emails include an initial email that I had earlier sent to a Dan Deckert, which included state appellate cases on the involved law, and concluded that an interpretation of the law that Mr. Morton and Mr. Deckert were arguing for would be unconstitutional.  I followed that up with an email that included federal cases that declared the statutory language unconstitutional.  In other words, Sheriff Hatcher is upset that I did not use a statute that had been found unconstitutional to charge people who were gathering signatures for his recall.

"Sheriff Hatcher makes allegations about the Blatt investigation.  He falsely states that I personally selected the investigator.  I did not.  Her name was forwarded as someone who had experience and an excellent reputation in conducting these types of investigation.  A further advantage was that she was not from the Benton County area and did not know any of the parties or any of the issues. She did conduct an independent investigation and issued findings.

"Again, this is not a complete analysis but is only intended to give you background.  This is not written within any attorney/client privilege, as it is based on documents and emails that are public records and is simply a summary of the factual background that should be transparent to all involved, including the public."

All Attachments from Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller:

request for WSP assistance email