The Downfall of a Sheriff.

Pictured: Former Sheriff Scott Johnson.

Description: Article About Former Sheriff’s Johnson’s Actions Leading to the Internal Affairs Investigation Initiated by Tribal Administrator Mike Rogers (Since Removed) Events That Intensified the Sheriff’s Campaign between His Good Friend Scott Johnson and Rogers’ Employee at the time Robin Souvenir.

On May 14, 2018, Chief of Police for the Shoalwater Bay Tribe Robin Souvenir filed for the Pacific County Sheriff’s election. Souvenir’s main competitor, incumbent Sheriff Scott Johnson, was a good friend of the Tribal Administrator at Shoalwater Bay. Initially, these relationships created some unease within the workplace, with T.A. Mike Rogers and his staff within the Shoalwater Bay Police Department maintaining divided loyalties.

Tensions were heightened when Johnson decided to adopt a negative stance against his opponents within an otherwise tight-knit coastal police community, where nearly everyone knows everyone; for the most part, coastal police departments had maintained a respectful, professional, and friendly demeanor toward one another.

Fearing the competition for Sheriff, Johnson began to spread malicious information against Souvenir and his campaign manager Lieutenant Matt Padgett. Progressively, Sheriff Johnson was able to leverage his relationship with Mike Rogers in ways that proved harmful to the Souvenir team at Shoalwater Bay. For instance, early on in the Sheriff’s campaign, Johnson traveled to Shoalwater Bay to make a complaint against his opponents to HR and Rogers. From that point on the Sheriff also increased his political interaction with Shoalwater Bay officers. As a result Souvenir and Padgett’s days were numbered at Shoalwater Bay.

The Formal Investigation Begins.

In the heat of the highly contested and progressively ugly Sheriff’s race, on Thursday, September 20, 2018, investigators from the Internal Affairs Section of the Washington State Patrol sat down with Tribal Administrator Mike Rogers and the Tribal Council Attorney at his law offices in South Bend, Washington.

During that meeting, they hammered out an investigative plan against Shoalwater Bay Lt. Matt Padgett. By that time Rogers, HR, and the Council lawyer were able to garner the support of three officers in the Shoalwater Bay police department against the Lieutenant. Allowing them to extend the time frame of the investigation to about six years in the past; the WSP investigation would cover all of the Lieutenant’s alleged misdeeds beginning in 2012.

On the following Monday, on September 24, 2018, Matt Padgett was informed that an outside Washington State Agency was called in to investigate an internal tribal matter of a sovereign state; events that were completed without informing Tribal Council and gaining the consent of the Shoalwater Bay governing body, something unprecedented in tribal history.

For his part sitting Sheriff Scott Johnson was under intense pressure of his own and was now fighting the Souvenir campaign on two fronts. Firstly, Mike Rogers was serving Johnson’s agenda when the Tribal Administrator instigated negative pressure against the Souvenir campaign by threatening the workplace standing and reputations of Johnson’s opponents.

Secondly, on another front, the South Bend court system, Johnson had been armed with damaging information against Padgett, claiming the Shoalwater Bay Lieutenant was on administrative leave/investigatory suspension, effective on that Monday. In this way, Johnson was able to use Shoalwater Bay administration leaks in ways that could undermine the credibility of his opponents.

To try and accomplish this, Sheriff Johnson’s Pacific County lawyer filed for a Protective Order on Tuesday, September 25, 2018, with the South Bend Court. In that deposition, Johnson alluded to Padgett’s recent workplace predicament (highly confidential tribal employee information) to help shore up his court case for preventing the release of personally damaging video.

Johnson referenced Souvenir and Padgett specifically, claiming they were intent on using this information against him. Johnson suspected, as he told the South Bend judge, that they would unfairly cut the video together in a way that would make him look dishonest.

Sheriff Johnson’s Advantage Severely Diminished.

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 were sent 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.

Public Confidence Reaches a New Low

Scott Johnson was in the middle of a 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. News from April 3, 2019, reported that Fosse was given a $450,000 settlement and his status was changed from being fired to a retired undersheriff of Pacific County as a result.

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.