Algona police officer arrested for allegedly taking funds

A six-week King County Sheriff's Office investigation led to the arrest Wednesday of Algona Police Lt. Lee Gaskill, formerly the City's interim police chief.

A six-week King County Sheriff’s Office investigation led to the arrest Wednesday of Algona Police Lt. Lee Gaskill, formerly the City’s interim police chief.

Gaskill appeared in King County Superior Court in Kent today but wasn’t charged with any crimes. He was released pending an ongoing investigation, King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office spokesperson Dan Donohoe said.

Gaskill allegedly took more than $7,000 from the Sumner, Pacific and Algona Police Explorer fund, according to Algona Mayor Dave Hill.

If charged and found guilty of Theft in the First Degree, Gaskill could face up to 10 years in jail and $20,000 in fines.

“About six weeks ago there were some matters brought to my attention, and we started an administrative investigation (of Gaskill),” Hill said.

Hill said the City immediately demoted Gaskill from his position as interim police chief, which he held from April 2014 to February 2015. A few days later, Gaskill, who has been a member of the Algona Police Department more than seven years, was placed on paid administrative leave.

“It come to our attention that there were some irregularities in the funds of the Explorer post that he had control of,” Hill said.

The Explorer Program, which has been active in Algona since March 2008, is funded by donations and staffed by volunteers. It provides youth an opportunity to get a taste of what a career in law enforcement is like.

One of the duties of the Algona police chief is to serve as Explorer president, which includes administering the bank account.

Hill said he immediately contacted the KCSO, who began their investigation, which resulted in the arrest.

Although Hill said that Gaskill didn’t have access to any of the City’s other financial accounts, the KCSO investigation is still ongoing, as is another investigation by a private investigator hired by the City.

Hill said the whole process started when he was informed by a city employee of alleged wrongdoing by Gaskill.

“They brought other things than the money to my attention,” Hill said. “It was in processing the information that the money issue came forward.”

Hill declined to comment on what the other items brought up by the city employee were, but said they involved “administrative rules not being followed.”

Hill added that several police department employees have also come forward with other instances of rules not being followed since the administrative investigation began

“If taken as a single incident, they all would be relatively minor,” Hill said. “It’s when you take them as a whole that they become a concern.”

Although Gaskill was initially placed on paid administrative leave, Hill said he’s also been on FMLA leave during the last six weeks, and his status is “uncertain.”

“(Wednesday was) the culmination of six weeks of oversight on this investigation,” Hill said. “The start of all this was a relatively innocuous concern. Then it turned into a new revelation each day.”

Hill continued:

“What I’m really trying to stress in meeting with all the press is the key message that we’re a very open City, and we’re not going to try to hide anything or avoid following through on this. We want to see it’s handled fairly and properly for both the City and for Mr. Gaskill. But we’re going to pursue it to wherever it leads us. I think that should be reassuring to most people that we’re not covering this up like a lot of cities or organizations might try to do. We came forward with this. I’m the one personally that brought this to the King County Sheriffs.”