Burien city manager wants to oust police chief, King Co, Sheriff fights back

The city of Burien and the King County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) are clashing once again. 

City manager Adolfo Bailon is trying to push out the veteran police chief, saying in a letter to Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall that he does not trust chief Ted Boe to fulfill requirements listed within the interlocal agreement between the two agencies. 

The city and the sheriff's office have been at odds since early March over a number of reasons. 

Burien is suing KCSO, saying the agency is violating their city contract by not enforcing a key part of Burien's 24-hour public camping ban. The suit is in response to the sheriff's office filing a legal challenge that that ordinance is not unconstitutional. 

It appears the city hasn't made interlocal agreement payments for law enforcement services since then. They contract out of the sheriff's office. 

In Bailon's letter to Cole-Tindall, he said: 

"I can no longer state that I trust Chief Boe to fulfill the requirements listed within the Interlocal Agreement (i.e. the conditions listed under Exhibit C, Section B, Paragraph 3, Subparagraphs (c) and (f)) between the City of Burien and King County," Bailon wrote. "More specifically, efforts to address specific issues of concern within the City of Burien have led me to determine that Chief Boe’s actions no longer represent the City of Burien best interests, vision, and goals, in a manner that supports trust between the City and King County Sheriff’s Office."

Bailon requested to work with Sheriff’s Office staff to initiate the recruitment process for a new Burien police chief. There have also been rumors about creating a new, independent police department for the city.

"Please let me know at your earliest convenience with whom from your staff I should work with to commence the recruitment process." 

Bailon’s letter did not list specific examples of behavior or actions but pointed to alleged violations of the Interlocal Agreement. 

The specific section that Bailon says Boe violates is under the "contract police chief (city police chief for contract cities) section, particularly regarding "interaction with the contracting entity." 

The subsections Bailon points to, says, "the police chief shall function as a department head within the contracting entity's organizational structure, and is expected to conduct himself or herself in a manner that supports and maintains trust in the contracting entity." He also points to the part that says "The KCSO views the contract cities as customers and will maintain a customer service orientation to managing the contracts. Consistent with this philosophy, police chiefs are expected to represent the city's point of view, consider city needs in carrying out their duties and advocate on behalf of their duty similar to other city departmental directions." 

"This is an incredibly frustrating situation for everyone. While I like the chief as a person, constituents elected me to help tackle the homeless issue so that we can have a safe and livable community. What many people don’t understand is that with some of the homeless this is not a housing problem, it is a substance abuse problem.  Enforcing existing laws can help homeless struggling with addiction access rehab programs (SCORE Jail). Enforcement isn't about punishment, it's getting them access to the help they need to avoid overdose or becoming victims of crime in the camps. They are vulnerable. We need Chief Boe to enforce these laws, or he should be replaced with someone who will," councilmember Linda Akey said in a statement.

In its own letter, the King County Sheriff's Office called Bailon’s request surprising, highlighting hundreds of arrests made under Chief Boe and how car theft, residential burglary, vandalism and assault are down from last year over the same period.

She also pointed to a special meeting where city councilmembers praised Boe and his department for their work.

"These results demonstrate excellent policing and do not show that there is a failure of leadership in the Burien Police Department…. Because the facts show that Chief Boe is doing a great job leading the Burien Police Department, Sheriff Cole-Tindall told City Manager Bailon that the timing of his request to remove the chief raised its own concerns. Chief Boe has provided sworn testimony in a lawsuit regarding the constitutionality of Burien’s current public camping ordinance. State law prohibits any local government from retaliating against a person for raising concerns with the constitutionality of government action. King County cannot be party to retaliatory action against the chief," the sheriff's office said in part, in a statement. 

The statement continued to say: 

"Moreover, in response to Bailon’s unsupported demand to remove Chief Boe, the sheriff pointed out that Burien was withholding all payment for police services at the city manager’s direction, even though those services continue to be provided every day to the residents of Burien. Until the city resolves this breach of its agreement with the Sheriff’s Office, there is little need to account for the city manager’s undisclosed concerns." 

Burien mayor Kevin Schilling chimed in with a lengthy statement, separated into parts and subsections, in favor of Boe. 

Schilling claimed that KCSO and Cole-Tindall "knowingly issued false claims against Burien and Burien’s City Manager." 

You can read his full statement below or tap here on mobile

As of now, Boe is still police chief. 

It's unclear what happens next as the agencies remain at odds.

In a new statement issued on April 23, Cole-Tindall calls out the city council, saying: 

"The Sheriff and elected King County officials continue to be the target of concerns related to the current homelessness issues in Burien. This is a situation that the City of Burien can resolve. The City's decision to replace its prior camping ordinance with the current ordinance is the source of the problem. The current ordinance is almost certainly unconstitutional. The Sheriff's Office enforced the prior ordinance in partnership with the City's social service contractors. The new amended ordinance abandoned this approach making it unlike any other municipal ordinance in our region. The City of Burien could resolve this situation immediately by readopting the original language and re-engaging with its social service providers.

Burien has taken away the tools needed to resolve these issues. Burien's police officers are committed to ensuring the safety of every person living it, doing business in, and visiting the City of Burien. Under Chief Boe's leadership, the Burien Police Department has made 439 arrests, led by 82 arrests for public use or possession of drugs, and 70 arrests for assault this year. Auto theft, residential burglary, vandalism, and assault were all down from last year over the same time period. An increase in robbery was tied to a specific crime spree where the suspects are now in custody. The Sheriff's Office has been responsive to the needs of the Burien community within the scope of the law.

The elected representatives on the Burien City Council can correct their action in amending the previous constitutional camping ordinance, prioritize outreach services and utilize the $1 million and 35 pallet shelters that were offered by the County almost a year ago to help address the challenge of homelessness in Burien. Without these changes, the County, the City, the community, and residents who are unhoused will continue to wait for a court to decide the issue. The County has asked for a quick resolution from the court and the City of Burien continues to delay and attempt to redirect blame. The community deserves a more immediate resolution from the City Council instead of waiting for a decision from the Federal Court." 

This is a developing story.

FOX 13 will have updates as they become available. 

More on Burien city politics

King County files complaint over Burien's anti-camping legislation

Burien City Council expands public camping ban

Unhoused Burien residents camp outside city hall after temporary shelter closes

'We may be homeless…but we still have rights': Unhoused woman sues Burien on no camping law