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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Controversy, conflict no strangers to sheriff candidate Scott Maclay

Michael “Scott” Maclay, 60, who in May legally changed his name to DumpOzzie Dot Com, speaks with his attorney, Eowen Rosentrater, while appearing before Superior Court Judge Michael Price, Thursday, July 19, 2018. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The man seeking to unseat Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich claims that he helped bring down the Aryan Nations, was a member of the sheriff’s dive team and was the leading real estate agent in Spokane Valley for two decades.

But interviews and court records spanning decades instead describe Michael “Scott” Maclay as a con man, cyberstalker and bully who lost his real estate license for cheating and likes to pull his gun in public.

The 60-year-old conspiracy theorist, who in May legally changed his name to DumpOzzie Dot Com, pushes the legal limit of free speech in attacking his election foe, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich; his ex-wife, Laura Renz; and anyone who does not agree with his worldview.

He’s filed for bankruptcy four times since 2005.

In 1984, a jury convicted Maclay of first-degree criminal trespass when deputies caught him pushing a 12-foot aluminum boat over a sporting goods store’s 6-foot chain-link fence.

This week, he was in family court regarding the alleged harassment of his ex-wife.

“We are dealing with a bully,” attorney Michael Beyer said of Maclay during a court argument on Thursday. “When we were kids, you would run into a bully in the schoolyard, you dealt” with the bully. “My client (Renz) would never take the law into her own hands. But she is in psychological fear.”

Asked in person Thursday to provide answers to a list of questions, Maclay said: “I have no reason to work with The Spokesman-Review.” He later said “No comment” when given a second opportunity to answer questions in person or over the phone regarding this story.

Within minutes, however, he posted a message to Facebook apparently in response to the request. “I’m down here at the Courthouse, again, another restraining order … as The Spokesman-Review Tabloid, Hit Team waits to perform yet another character assassination on accountability, openness, transparency, and Trump,” Maclay wrote. “They are not liking my policy that all questions from the S-R must be emailed … and dictating to me that I’m not in charge … and that’s not how it works. Well, I was thinking, it seems to work very well for Matt Shea : )”

His sister, Sheri Herberholz, 59, said she and her husband moved from the area to Florida to get away from Maclay. They filed four court orders seeking protection from him, and she is supporting Renz’s effort to obtain a permanent protective order against him.

“You are never going to know a guy like Scott Maclay,” Herberholz said. “He’s deceptive, he’s devious, he’s smart. I wish he would apply all that smartness for the good.”

Herberholz said she was only willing to talk on the record about Maclay because of the distance that now separates them.

“I think the guy is dangerous,” she said.

FBI investigating

reported threats

According to investigative files, online posts, court documents and interviews, Maclay likes to show off his .45-caliber pistol, which he used in two shootings in 1997 and 1998.

In 1997 Maclay fired a shot above the head of a reckless and aggressive driver in Spokane Valley who had threatened him. Police later arrested the man.

In 1998 Maclay fired several rounds into the radiator of a car in the Applebee’s restaurant parking lot. The car had sideswiped and knocked down a real estate agent who was with Maclay.

Though Maclay was criminally charged for his actions, prosecutors later dropped the case.

“I don’t consider myself to be somebody who is prone to altercations,” Maclay told The Spokesman-Review in 2002 when he answered questions during his unsuccessful candidacy for a seat on the nascent Spokane Valley City Council. “I just think lightning has struck me twice and in both cases I have demonstrated that I did the right thing.”

Herberholz said she kicked Maclay out of the bar, Cruisers, that she and her husband owned for a decade in the early 2000s near Stateline, Idaho.

She started obtaining restraining orders against her brother after he started taking out his pistol inside the bar.

Sometimes Maclay would spin it on a table and then buy a beer for whomever it was pointing at when it stopped. He used the same technique to pick dance partners.

Herberholz said she kicked him out after he went to the restroom and came out nude, except for a shoulder holster and his pistol.

“I feel sorry for Sheriff Ozzie,” she said. “I said, ‘Be careful. When he snaps, he gets gun-happy.’ ”

The gun came out again, according to several witnesses, on May 20, 2014, inside the Timbercreek Restaurant during a meeting of several motorcycle clubs in Spokane Valley.

Witnesses told investigators that Maclay pulled his gun and threatened another biker. While he was pointing the pistol at the biker, another biker standing nearby punched Maclay, knocking him unconscious.

When deputies arrived, they found Maclay on the wrong end of his own gun. One of the bikers had taken Maclay’s .45-caliber pistol and was holding it on him.

“In the end, none of the subjects wanted to press assault charges,” according to a police bulletin, and charges were never filed.

Last year, the FBI began investigating Maclay after an informant came forward alleging that Maclay was planning to hurt Knezovich. Maclay confirmed the investigation by posting online about his interactions with the FBI, including a description of how he showed the agents his pistol.

“The FBI made a surprise visit to my CDA hide-out this morning – asking questions about Sheriff Knezovich’s unfounded allegations about ‘death threats,’ ” Maclay wrote earlier this year. “I told them I would likely be placing my name on the ballot for Sheriff in May, but would likely continue staying out of Spokane County, as much as possible, and the Sheriff’s continuing pattern in falsely arresting, and incarcerating me … or at the very least until my Civil Lawsuit against him is re$olved (sic).”

Christian Parker, senior resident supervisory agent in the Spokane office of the FBI, said he could not discuss what Maclay already confirmed on his Facebook page “Dump Ozzie.”

“That’s not really something I can address, whether there is an investigation or isn’t,” Parker said.

On Feb. 23, Maclay published another post showing a photo of him holding a shotgun under the heading: “Apparently … the FBI didn’t get the Sheriff’s Memo?”

“So, I renewed my concealed weapons permit today without any concern from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and their investigation against me into the Sheriff’s Formal Statement … that I made ‘Death Threats’ against him and his wife,” Maclay wrote.

He later added: “I have had my name disparaged by the local press that never presses for the truth when it comes to Sheriff Knezovich or the agenda they represent – that often results in him endorsing democrats, homosexuals and liberals.”

From marriage to protection order

Laura Renz, 52, said she made one of the great mistakes of her life when she agreed to marry Maclay in September 2005.

“It’s so embarrassing,” Renz said. “I thought, ‘He was a real estate agent. He was pretty normal.’ But, oh my God.”

In the five or six months she was married to him, Renz said Maclay ran up her credit card to more than $12,500. The judge granted her about half that amount, or $6,400, in the 2006 divorce decree. Renz said she has not received any of the money owed to her and instead has spent more than that amount in attorney fees trying to get Maclay to comply.

Eventually, a judge issued an arrest warrant for Maclay’s failure to pay, and a deputy arrested him during a 2011 traffic stop. Maclay sued the Spokane County Jail for failing to provide him with medications during that incarceration.

That lawsuit was quickly dismissed “with prejudice” in 2014 by a judge who noted that nurses had checked on Maclay five times during his 62-hour stay and they reported, among other things, that he began yelling at them as they tried to examine him.

In that same court case, Maclay argued that the jail failed to provide prescription medication for asthma. He has recently claimed to be dying from a terminal lung illness.

“He’s a liar,” Renz said, saying Maclay has never had a terminal lung illness.

She said Maclay, who grew up in Libby, Montana, tried to get included in a class-action lawsuit for asbestos-related illnesses against W.R. Grace Inc. “They kicked him off that years ago,” Renz said. “He was supposed to go to Libby for tests and he never went.”

Herberholz said she respects Renz’s efforts in seeking any legal means necessary to rein in her brother.

“He met his match with Laura Renz,” Herberholz said. “She’s very opinionated and she’s burned, so she’s very mad. She was the only one out of all his wives who actually did something about the harm he caused.”

There are records for three marriages, but Herberholz believes Maclay may have been married as many as eight times.

Renz’s legal efforts haven’t been easy. Maclay filed for bankruptcy in 2009. When it was over in 2015, Maclay was ordered to pay $294.85 to erase debts totaling $85,543. That included the $6,500 he owed Renz from the divorce, and $4,088 he owed the Internal Revenue Service.

In the meantime, Renz and Maclay exchanged several online attacks.

“He loves seeing his name. He loves any attention, I think the worse the attention the better for him,” Renz wrote on Facebook. “Never in my life have I experienced anyone like this idiot.”

Late last summer, Maclay lumped Renz, two former Spokesman-Review reporters and another Valley woman in with what he called the “Clique-of-Bitterness.” He offered a reward of $1,000 if it could be proven that the person defacing candidate signs for Caleb Collier turned out to be any of those four women.

“No questions asked, and you do not need to be present for the beating to WIN!” Maclay wrote last year. “Give us a call, collect the cash and we’ll do all the work from there!”

Maclay later added a $5,000 award “If you capture Sheriff Knezovich.”

“If that’s not a threat, I don’t know what is,” Renz’s attorney, Beyer, said in court. “Why would someone do that? Again, we are dealing with a bully.”

As part of the running feud, Renz has been trying to get a permanent protection order to prevent Maclay from the online attacks and unwanted visits. As part of that legal fight, District Court Judge Patti Connolly Walker on March 12 ordered Maclay to surrender any firearms he owned.

However, several law enforcement agencies failed for several days to find Maclay to serve him with the court’s papers. They tried addresses in Spokane Valley, Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene and St. Maries. At one point, Renz’s attorney hired a private company to serve the papers. But that firm quickly quit, writing: “Mike, I’m sorry. None of my guys wanna (sic) deal with this guy.”

In response, Maclay published a post on his Rattlesnakes Motorcycle Club page on March 30 mocking the attempts to find him.

“That dirty rotten scoundrel Maclay – it must be hard to make an Abuse, Domestic Violence, I’m a Mental Snowflake, I got my feelings hurt, whatever, Complaint against him when you can’t even find him?” he wrote. “As, for me, I’m headed for sunny weather tomorrow, maybe, you should spend a day looking for me at the airport – bwahahaha – come on girls!”

In court documents filed April 25, Maclay denied he was avoiding those persons who were trying to serve him court papers.

“Regarding the alleged avoidance of service: I am a traveling respiratory therapist, licensed and practicing in two states,” wrote Maclay, who has refused in multiple interviews to say where he works. “I did not avoid service. I never threatened any process servers. I am as available for service as any other hard-working, full-time, traveling, on-call therapist.”

Maclay’s court arguments seemed to have worked. District Court Commissioner Tami Chavez dismissed Renz’s protection order on June 30 after finding fault with both of them.

“My biggest problem with this case is that both parties have used public forums to air personal laundry,” Chavez wrote. “And, I think it’s inappropriate for both of you to be doing that. Your personal battles stop now.”

But Renz appealed the case to Spokane County Superior Court and Judge Michael Price is expected to rule soon.

“My client has no intention to intimidate or harass,” Maclay’s attorney Eowen Rosentrater said Thursday. Renz “has called him an idiot, a predator, a thief, a con-man and a bunch of other adjectives I don’t have time to list. She is the aggressor … against my client.”

Campaign fraud

While the legal battle goes on with Renz, Maclay has his own social-media war raging against Knezovich, whom Maclay refers to as a “corrupt and murderous sheriff with blood on his hands” who is “Mormonizing” the sheriff’s office.

He faults Knezovich’s handling of a number of fatal incidents, including the shooting of Pastor W. Scott Creach, who was shot by a deputy in August 2010, and the death of 15-year-old Ryan Holyk, who was struck by a deputy’s patrol vehicle while riding his bicycle in May 2014. Despite the Holyk family issuing a cease-and-desist order against Maclay, he contends that he helped the family secure a $1 million settlement.

Maclay was most recently arrested at the Sept. 23 memorial service for 15-year-old Sam Strahan, who was killed 10 days earlier in last year’s shooting at Freeman High School. Maclay sat in seating reserved for family and then threatened to spark a confrontation at the memorial, according to court records.

While the charges later were dismissed, Knezovich has said that he believes Maclay may turn violent.

“Unless you agree with Scott Maclay, you are going to be a target,” Knezovich said in an earlier interview. “He targets someone and then he tries to make their lives fairly miserable, and that’s what he’s done with me.”

As part of his campaign against Knezovich, Maclay used Facebook last Sept. 5 to post a photo with his arm around 87-year-old Don Priest, a real estate broker in the Spokane Valley for the past 46 years. “His opinion, therefore, is significant,” Maclay wrote.

He then quoted Priest saying the following: “We have lost our sense of community … and we are not safe with the deputies that are now roaming our Valley streets. It seems that in being hard on crime, crimes are now being committed by our deputies that is both egregious and incomprehensible … absolutely abhorrible (sic).”

But Priest denies ever saying anything like that, according to a letter he sent Knezovich and again later in an interview for this story.

“I never even talked about the sheriff,” Priest said. “That Maclay is dishonest. It teed me off. I’m still teed off about it.”

Priest said Maclay introduced himself at church, said he respected Priest as a businessman and wanted to get a photograph with him. Priest agreed to the photo and later saw the quote attributed to him slamming the sheriff’s office.

“It was a shock to me. I think highly of our sheriff,” Priest said. Knezovich “came out in person and wanted to know if I said that.”

Priest wrote a letter that Knezovich forwarded in a complaint to the Public Disclosure Commission.

‘Dishonest dealings’

In previous interviews when asked about any prior law enforcement experience, Maclay claims to have been a “field agent” who helped bring down violent racist groups The Order and the Aryan Nations. He also said he was a longtime member of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Dive Team under Tom DiBartolo, who was convicted in 1997 of killing his wife.

“No one has any knowledge of Scott Maclay in this agency,” Knezovich said. “I don’t think it’s ironic that all the people he claims he did this for are all dead or locked in prison.”

Parker, the FBI supervisor, said he had no knowledge of Maclay ever helping federal authorities. “If I did, I couldn’t comment,” he said.

Herberholz, his sister, said Maclay’s campaign boasts are examples of a pattern she has seen for years.

“If Scott watched a dive team and he was standing there and someone said, ‘Hello,’ he’s now a diveman for the police department,” Herberholz said. “If Scott watched a pilot take off while eating breakfast at Felts Field, he’s now a pilot. It’s sad to make fun of him, because I think he actually believes this stuff.”

Maclay also has a failed elections record, including a 1992 run for Spokane County commissioner; a 2001 run for Spokane Valley Fire District 1 commissioner; and a 2002 run for Spokane Valley City Council.

“He’s now running for sheriff, which is scary,” Herberholz said, “because some people just vote A or B. People don’t do their homework or investigate.”

Maclay said during an interview in May that for “two decades, I was the leading resale real estate broker in the Spokane Valley.”

But Maclay got tangled in a legal battle with the Idaho Real Estate Commission that eventually cost him his license to sell homes there. And he was sanctioned by the Washington Department of Licensing in 2014 for “pestering” clients and attorneys for fees they said they didn’t owe.

In the Idaho case, Maclay was found to have violated more than a dozen laws governing the real estate business, including “using another person’s broker’s license” without permission, and engaging “in dishonest dealings and reckless or gross negligence.”

After Maclay was fired by one brokerage for failing to turn in “upfront marketing fees” to his broker, he went to work for Help-U-Sell Real Estate and broker George Kucera on March 1, 2007.

In October of that year, Kucera died. But Maclay claimed that Kucera signed a “transition letter” that appointed him as the “inherit broker” and he then asked the Idaho secretary of state to remove Kucera’s name from the business.

“The Commission noted that the letter Kucera signed was dated October 9, 2007,” the court ruling reads. “The Commission questioned how Kucera could write such a letter when he died on October 8, 2007.”