SEATTLE - Battling accusations that he mistreated women under his command, King County Sheriff candidate John Urquhart promised to appoint a woman as his second in command if he's elected.
On Saturday, reporters began getting messages about female deputies who had complained about discriminatory treatment when Urquhart was their sergeant.
Monday, some of the women spoke with reporters, and Tuesday, Urquhart called reporters to a news conference and announced that veteran police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick had agreed to be Urquhart’s chief deputy if he’s elected sheriff.
Urquhart denied the announcement was in response to the allegations by female deputies under his command nine years ago.
Urquhart pointed out and department documents confirm that allegations of unbecoming conduct, dishonesty and discrimination were not sustained.
“I've never been disciplined for anything in my career,” said Urquhart.
But some women Urquhart supervised believe he should have been.
“His leadership style, it's just intimidation and belittlement and that's not how you build people up,” said former King County deputy Liz Johnson. “The behavior that I witnessed from him is so bizarre, that's what I'm saying, something wasn't right.”
An investigation determined that Urquhart’s management style and communication created low morale and stress at work.
“I was told by my sheriff, I was told by my precinct commander, to hold my shift accountable. And I did that,” said Urquhart.
Former sheriff Sue Rahr praised his work as media relations officer last year, writing that “his leadership exceeds standards” and that he is “the most reliable and consistent informal leader in the Sheriff’s Office.”
Kirkpatrick said she has no doubts about Urquhart.
Incumbent Steve Strachan is also dealing with allegations from female deputies.
Three detectives have filed a $9 million claim against the department, alleging sexual harassment.