'I retired honorably': Jefferson County sheriff candidate denies allegations surrounding his State Patrol departure

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

CHIMACUM — Former State Patrol Sgt. Ken Przygocki, an announced candidate for Jefferson County sheriff, was under investigation by the State Patrol's Office of Professional Standards when he retired March 30, 2012.

That was the same day the Chimacum resident signed an agreement with the State Patrol under which he would have had to resign just three days later, on April 2, according to State Patrol records.

Interviewed Friday, Przygocki (pronounced sheh-GUSS-key) denied any wrongdoing.

“I retired honorably,” he said in an email Saturday.

“I did not commit the alleged allegations. I served my time in the Washington State Patrol and could retire anytime I choose.”

He said he regretted signing the agreement and tried to rescind it, but he said the State Patrol denied his request.

Przygocki has announced he will run as an independent candidate for the partisan position being vacated by Sheriff Tony Hernandez, a Democrat who announced that he will not seek re-election.

The candidate filing period begins Monday and extends through Friday.

Przygocki said he wanted to run for sheriff in 2010 but could not because he was still employed by the State Patrol and performed duties that were funded with federal money, according to a state Attorney General's Office opinion.

At the time of the settlement agreement, Przygocki, 63, who had spent 38 years in law enforcement, was under investigation for allegedly lying to his superior about being at a
Feb. 28, 2012, court hearing — which was not held — under a subpoena that did not exist, according to the investigator's case log signed by Lt. Debby Jacobson.

Jacobson, who was Przygocki's supervisor, also questioned four hours of overtime he put down for Feb. 26 2012, to schedule staff for a memorial for Trooper Tony Radulescu, who was shot and killed three days earlier while on duty.

Przygocki was stationed at State Patrol's Mill Creek post.

“It is alleged Sergeant [Przygocki] was deceptive regarding the status of his court case and the need for overtime,” Jacobson concluded in case log.

In her March 5, 2012, incident report, she said: “It is alleged [Przygocki] was untruthful when providing information to his supervisor related to the performance of his duties.”

Said Przygocki: “There was never a truthfulness issue.”

“I didn't do what they alleged I did,” he said.

Przygocki said the subpoena did exist and that he still has a copy of it.

He said that the defendant had made a plea in the case before the court date and that he never even went to court.

According to Jacobson's case log, Przygocki told Jacobson “he was on his way back from court.”

“It's a bunch of bull,” Przygocki said.

“It never happened.”

In his email, he said that he never left Jefferson County and instead went to the state Department of Transportation office in Discovery Bay to prepare his patrol car for the funeral.

“I did not request any overtime compensation for this day,” he said in his email.

All that remained of the investigation when the settlement agreement was signed was an interview with Przygocki, said State Patrol Capt. Travis Matheson.

Matheson was the Office of Professional Standards assistant commander during the investigation and now heads the branch.

“At the point at which we stopped, they were all allegations, and none of them were proven or disproved,” Matheson said last week.

Once the investigation was concluded, Przygocki's captain would have reviewed the findings.

“Typically, employees who have been found to violate the truthfulness policy are asked to leave or are terminated,” Matheson said Friday.

On March 5, the same day the incident report was issued, Przygocki was put on administrative leave with pay.

“This administrative reassignment is not a disciplinary action,” according to the leave notice.

He said he thought the March 30 meeting at which he signed the agreement was supposed to offer a chance to be interviewed and defend himself.

That was not the case.

“All they kept saying was, 'If you retire, all this is forgotten, you can retire peacefully,'” Przygocki said.

Przygocki, whose annual salary was $80,112, supervised between six and 10 troopers.

The fact that an employee is eligible to retire “would have been a factor in the conversation,” Matheson said.

The talk of a settlement left Przygocki in a daze, he recalled.

“Sitting there, honestly, I don't remember signing that stuff, I was so upset,” he said.

“I felt like I got punched in the face.

“They were just out to get me.

“They wanted me to leave.

“So to make my life a lot easier, I said, 'I've got my time in, just retire, start all over again and be happy and not have to put up with that BS all the time.”

Przygocki retired the same day.

But when he got home, “I said, 'This is wrong, this is just pure wrong,'” he said.

He said his lawyer told him he had seven days to rescind the agreement and that he also could revoke his retirement notice.

He faxed a request to the State Patrol to rescind the pact before the deadline, but the request was denied, he said.

“I did not do anything wrong,” he said in his email.

Jefferson County Sheriff Hernandez recently told Przygocki that he didn't plan to run for re-election.

A few days later, Przygocki announced his intention to run for sheriff.

Hernandez said he was “shocked” at the allegations and did not know about them at the time — but still would have informed him that the sheriff's position would be open.

“I would have said, 'You are going to have to explain this,'” Hernandez said.

“If there are things in a person's background that are questionable, they obviously are going to have to explain those things to the public.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 11. 2014 2:12AM
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