Pacific concedes allegations against former mayor were 'without merit'

Rich Hildreth - Reporter file photo
Rich Hildreth
— image credit: Reporter file photo

Former Pacific Mayor Rich Hildreth wanted to clear his name.

Finally, more than 2½ years after Hildreth left office, City officials have conceded that allegations of corruption Hildreth's successor, Cy Sun, had lodged against him were unfounded.

Mayor Leanne Guier released those findings in an official City letter.

"It is the conclusion of the City of Pacific, as supported by the Washington State Auditor's office and any and all investigations on this matter, that the allegations of corruption are without merit," Guier wrote.

Among the debunked allegations: Hildreth's alleged misuse of a City credit card; the existence of slush funds; missing receipts; the misuse of City property; and collusion to cover up abuses. The Auditor's office investigated and found the allegations baseless.

City audits during Hildreth's eight years of office found no evidence of fraud, misuse of funds or improprieties, Guier said.

The King County Prosecutor's Office also reviewed the case and declined to prosecute, concluding that the investigation "did not find that there was evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was an intent to deprive the city of these funds, which is an essential element of the crime of theft."

Hildreth is ready to put the matter behind him.

"My goal has always been to clear my name, not for financial gain," Hildreth said. "Although these allegations clearly damaged my reputation, I see no reason to punish the citizens for the actions of a few individuals. It is my hope that we can all put these sad days behind us and everyone move forward."

Sun, a write-in candidate and a Korean War veteran, unseated Hildreth in the 2011 election, riding claims of corruption in City Hall under Hildreth's watch. Hildreth said such claims were "disappointing," part of Sun's negative campaigning and "deception of our citizens."

Hildreth's political opponents continued to express the claims up to and through election day.

"A problem we have in our election laws allows candidates to knowingly spout mistruths without legal recourse," Hildreth said. "The problem was Cy Sun continued making those false claims even after taking office."

Sun, whose 18-month stint as mayor was marked by upheaval and controversy, was removed from office. About 65 percent of residents voted to recall Sun from office before the end of his term in June 2013.

Meanwhile, Hildreth has moved on. Since leaving office, he returned to school to earn a degree in emergency and disaster management. He was elected vice president of American Military University's Student Chapter of the International Association of Emergency Managers.

A union electrician for more than 20 years, Hildreth is pursuing a career in emergency management.

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