KHQ Special Report, 'Crossing The Line': A Parole Officer’s Resignation
by Kelsey Watts, KHQ Local News Anchor/Reporter - bio | email
SPOKANE, Wash – He's a public employee, accused of breaking the rules and taking kickbacks.
KHQ's Centers For Investigative Action learned a parole officer with the Department of Corrections ultimately resigned as a result of the investigation into his actions.
KHQ is not naming the parole officer because he was never charged with a crime.
But Jackie Bride, whose son was under the supervision of that parole officer, says government employees shouldn't be above the law.
"If they'd just stopped him the first time, things could be a lot different right now," Bride told KHQ.
She says her son, Steven Roche, has struggled to get his life together. He's been in and out of trouble for 10 years; but when he was released from the Airway Heights Corrections Center after serving time for check fraud and drug charges, she thought he was finally going to make it.
Until, she says, his parole officer allowed him to relapse.
Upon his release, Roche got a job at a car service center in Spokane. But that's when he says his parole officer did more than just check in: he got free oil changes and car maintenance, and in exchange, wouldn't give Roche drug tests, or would throw them out if they were ‘dirty.'
"Of course it's my fault that I decided to relapse and started using drugs," Roche told KHQ's Kelsey Watts over the phone from a federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon. "But that's supposed to be what supervision is for."
Roche's allegations against his parole officer launched a Department of Corrections investigation, including interviews with both men, DOC supervisors and other witnesses.
Public records show the parole officer was asked, "Did you ever see anything wrong with this situation?"
He replied: "Looking at it now, I can see that the perception doesn't look too good …I will absolutely not put myself in this situation again."
So how could this happen?
"There are a lot of things built in for accountability," DOC Field Administrator Debra Connor told KHQ, adding that every parole officer has a supervisor who regularly audits their work and goes out in the field with them.
In this case, the parole officer was put on leave as soon as these allegations of misconduct surfaced.
"No agency, private or public can guarantee the behavior of every single employee, and some make some really bad choices," she said. "But the majority of our folks do a great job."
Connor says he was supervising about 30 other people at the time, which is a normal caseload. She says there is no reason to believe anything against policy was happening with his other clients.
But ultimately, the 9-year veteran of the department resigned.
Public records show he wrote his resignation letter "in light of being under potential discipline" and "to protect my employment history."
His resignation effectively stopped the investigation, and criminal charges were never filed.
"You can't just do this without any repercussion, you can't," Bride told KHQ.
"This kind of thing is not what any of us like to see happen," Connor said. "We took action as quickly as we became aware of it, and definitive action so it won't happen again."
As part of the settlement agreement, the parole officer can never work for the Department of Corrections again.
But KHQ's Kelsey Watts learned he now works for the Department of Social and Human Services.
When asked whether the DOC investigation has any bearing on his current position, DSHS Spokesperson Thomas Shapley released this statement:
"The Department of Social and Health Services, with more than 16,000 employees, has hiring policies consistent with state and federal law and collective bargaining agreements. As such, we contact at least three references, conduct criminal background checks and look at the employment history of prospective employees provided by other state agencies.
We are reviewing our procedures to ensure our policies and standards were met and are applied consistently.
Meanwhile, as is our policy, the employee has been reassigned to work where there is no direct contact with clients while a thorough review is being conducted."
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