State investigators are looking into assertions that workers at the Washington State Corrections Center in Shelton have made racist remarks and are engaged in white supremacist activities.
Phil Stanley, superintendent at the prison, said the Washington State Patrol has been investigating the allegations since July 21. The probe is expected to take several more weeks.
“There have been a lot of rumors, with nothing concrete surfacing. It was time to try to find out if there was anything there or not,” he said.
Eldon Vail, assistant director of the state division of prisons, sought the investigation after two prison guards were disciplined and because of ongoing allegations of racist comments and actions by other prison workers, Department of Corrections spokesman Veltry Johnson said.
Two white corrections officers - Doug Schley and Lee Keller - are on administrative leave for allegedly making racist comments. They are among 11 officers who were named in a supervisor’s e-mail detailing discussions about guards with alleged white-supremacist leanings, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Friday.
“There is absolutely no truth to it, but I, and a number of others, are being accused of being white supremacists,” Michael Malpass, a corrections officer at the prison, told the P-I. “This job is already stressful, but because of these rumors - none (of) which have been substantiated - there is a split between white and black staff.
“Frankly, if I were a black officer and heard what’s been said about me, I’d stay away (from me) too.”
Schley and Malpass said they have filed complaints with the state human rights commission alleging they are victims of discrimination because they have been labeled racists.
Malpass and two other officers also have filed personnel grievances.
Schley, once praised in a work valuation as displaying “an appreciation for diversity in the workplace,” was placed on administrative leave after he allegedly used a racial epithet and said blacks “should be lined up and shot,” according to a May 15 employee conduct report.
Schley denied making the comment.
Keller acknowledged in an interview that he sent an “inappropriate” letter to Stanley in which he said black and white officers at the prison no longer trusted each other, the P-I reported. Keller said he apologized for the letter and was seeking help.
Schley, Keller and other officers said the accusations stem from Kevin Waller, a black corrections lieutenant at Shelton. Internal prison e-mail and correspondence cite Waller as the source of the list of 11 alleged racist corrections officers, the P-I reported.
“This is about Waller trying to get back at officers who he thinks have crossed him,” Schley said.
Waller denied it.
“I have my opinions about why people are pointing their fingers at me, but I don’t wish to comment on it,” Waller told the P-I. “All I can say is that I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m not a liar and at the completion of this investigation, the truth will be known.”