Scott Johnson

With 47.4 percent of the vote in the three-way primary election, Sheriff Scott Johnson had a significant advantage over his nearest competitor and was well on his way to being reelected.  Of course, former Shoalwater Bay Tribal Police Chief Robin Souvenir would go on to win the November 6, 2018, General Election.

To explain the loss Johnson referenced a last-minute attack around the time that General Election ballots had come out. Johnson was referring to an article written by reporter Natalie St. John titled, “Sheriff under scrutiny for contradicting statements,” published on October 10, 2018, in the Chinook Observer.

Rather than being confrontational or challenging the article with competing facts, Johnson claimed that it was in his nature to turn the other cheek when something incorrect is said about him. For this reason, he did not respond at the time to St. John’s article “because I know it is not true and know that others would also know it is not true.”

Unlike what his public statements indicate, Johnson did not run his campaign in the spirit of democratic balance as turning the other cheek implies; instead, behind the scenes, Johnson went on the offensive. At Shoalwater Bay Johnson attempted to stifle Souvenir and Padgett’s ability to speak by leveraging his relationship with Tribal Administrator Mike Rogers who in turn enlisted the Shoalwater Bay police officers under his charge.

While Johnson heavily clouded his aims from the public eye, his explanations about what he was doing in practice, even to a South Bend judge, did not completely hide his intentions. When out of the spotlight, Johnson clearly expressed that he was not content to leave it up to the public to decide the truth or falsity of information about him. On the contrary, Johnson was actively seeking to prevent damaging news from getting into the public forum. Information Johnson feared could be used to harm his reputation and political future. 

Sheriff Scott Johnson and Dishonesty

Scott Johnson was in the middle of a very heated legal battle with someone he had known from childhood, his campaign manager, and his former Undersheriff Todd Fosse. The undersheriff was dismissed from his position in 2015 and wanted to know the reasons why Johnson had fired him. After requesting public records from Johnson’s offices and discovering that Johnson was dragging his feet, and even refusing to disclose many key documents, Fosse filed a lawsuit claiming the Sheriff was in breach of State law. The Public Records Act requires that public documents and records be complete and provided in a timely manner.

Pacific County attorney Jeffrey Myers placed political considerations at a premium when he addressed the county’s legal problems. For instance, Myers asked for a protective order to prohibit Todd Fosse from releasing the video of Johnson’s deposition. “Sheriff Johnson is concerned that the video of the deposition,” Myers wrote, “or an edited version thereof, may be used for political purposes, to try to embarrass him, or depict him in a false light or otherwise disparage him.”

Myers makes it clear that the reason Johnson was intent on managing the trove of records in Fosse’s possession was politically motivated. Added to this, Johnson’s legal worries hinged on the fact that the documents could very persuasively implicate Johnson in a scheme to defraud the State of Washington. The court case had already crossed a large hurdle, proving that Johnson had made false and misleading statements, the next stage is to determine intent to defraud. Making false statements to defraud a State retirement board is a felony offense

Johnson had made false statements leading a State board to believe that a close member in his staff was in the same category as police officers and firefighters who work on the front lines in the most dangerous occupations available. Ironically, in all probability the elaborate maneuverings, dishonesty, and unwarranted intrigue proved more damaging to his political career than anything else, making the cover up a main focal point and giving serious credence to the charges. It was a series of events that became too much to stomach for many Pacific County voters.

As a side note, more recently other news stories have called into question Johnson’s ethical standing. Notably, after Johnson appointed his elderly father (a retired road worker with no police experience) to a lucrative job in his administration. The $77.600 salary was paired with a suspect position that had not been properly budgeted, allowing the Board of Pacific County Commissioners to shelve the request.