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Corrections chief quit over affair with subordinate

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington’s former secretary of corrections said Tuesday that he abruptly departed his job last week because of an extramarital affair with a subordinate.

In an interview with The Seattle Times, Eldon Vail said that he learned last week of a video that apparently showed him and the employee leaving a motel near Olympia. He said he heard rumors that the video may be made public, so he decided his only choice was to resign.

“This is no one’s fault but my own,” Vail, 59, told The Times. “It’s not the employee’s fault. It is not my wife’s fault.”

Vail said the relationship was inappropriate and that he is trying to work it out with his wife. He declined to discuss the employee or say how long their relationship lasted.

Vail said he did not use state resources to conduct the affair and did not grant the woman any special benefits or privileges.

Karina Shagren, a spokeswoman for Gov. Chris Gregoire, said there is no investigation planned into the video or affair. She said the governor has yet to speak with Vail about the circumstances of his resignation, so it would be too early to discuss her reaction.

“There are certainly questions that need to be answered,” Shagren said. Vail had simply said in his resignation letter that he was departing for “personal reasons.”

Gregoire appointed Vail as secretary in January 2008, and he earned $147,000 per year. He previously worked as superintendent at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, McNeil Island Corrections Center and Washington Corrections Center for Women.

Vail has not responded to repeated phone calls from The Associated Press in recent days. Bernie Warner, the state’s prisons director, is now serving as acting secretary.

Warner said last week he was saddened that Vail had decided to step down and that he hoped to provide the same level of leadership.

“This agency has a long history of overcoming challenges, and I know we will weather this situation with the same professionalism that I have seen time and again,” he wrote in a note to staff.


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