Information on ethics investigation into King County executive stolen in break-in

SEATTLE — Seattle Police are investigating after a thief broke into the office of the King County Ombuds and stole laptops, which included data on the then-ongoing ethics investigation into King County Executive Dow Constantine.

Officers believe the evening of August 21st, a thief went to the seventh floor of the Dexter Horton Building on 2nd Avenue in Seattle and got into the Office of Ombuds, though it’s unclear if he slipped in before the doors locked for the night or physically broke in.

The police report states the thief stole three computers worth approximately $4,500 in value.

That report goes on to state, "Staff informed officers they were working on a major investigation on the county's ethics. The report was scheduled to be released in the next couple of weeks. The burglary seemed odd to them because the suspect only took a spare laptop along with the senior deputy and public records officer's laptop. There were several other laptops in the offices that were untouched."

“Does SPD believe the Ombuds Office was targeted because of this ongoing ethics investigation?” reporter Linzi Sheldon asked.

“It's very suspicious, and yeah, that's something that we're looking into,” Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said. “We keep all motives open when conducting investigations and the officer who did the primary investigation thought it was important enough to note that in the police report.”

The Ombuds was investigating whether Dow Constantine steered a lucrative concessions contract at Marymoor Park to two of his political supporters by pressuring parks staff.

KIRO 7 has learned that the break-in was one of several other burglaries at the Dexter Horton building in August and September, including two businesses targeted on the 5th floor.

“Right now you have a person of interest in some of the other break-ins in the building?” Sheldon asked Whitcomb.

“That is correct, I’m comfortable saying that,” he said.

“But it's unclear if that would be the same suspect in the Ombuds break-in?” Sheldon asked.

“Yes,” Whitcomb said.

Two weeks after the break-in, the Ombuds’ investigation wrapped up, finding "insufficient evidence" Constantine had abused authority or committed any ethics violation.

The Ombuds office said it believes there were limited pieces of information on the Constantine investigation on one of the computers but that it was encrypted. One of the laptops also contained records from three open employee whistleblower cases, but the office did not believe any of the records contained private personal information.

Ombuds Director Amy Calderwood said she does not believe the break-in is connected to any cases.

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