Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane County deputy who alleged firing was retribution for sheriff candidacy pulls out of race

Students and parents walking to Moran Prairie Elementary were met by Spokane County Sheriff Deputy Craig Chamberlin and others handing out flashing lights, glowing wristbands and bags during “Walk To School Day” on October 6, 2010. Chamberlin, who announced his candidacy for sheriff earlier this year, announced recently that he had opted not to run.  (Christopher Anderson/The Spokesman-Review)

A longtime Spokane County Sheriff’s Office deputy who was fired soon after he filed to run for sheriff in February pulled his name from the race leaving one candidate running for the office.

Craig Chamberlin announced his decision Thursday on his Facebook page.

“I understand this is going to upset and surprise thousands of people so let me try to explain,” he wrote. “I was put through an investigation, over the holidays, that lasted around three months. Prior to this, I had the most rewarding career with the citizens of the inland northwest having emceed numerous events, being invited to speak for numerous groups, providing traffic reports and ‘Ask Deputy Craig’ sessions on two different television networks, radio stations, the list goes on and on.”

In much of his 22-year career with the sheriff’s office, Chamberlin was a sheriff’s office spokesman and became well-known to the public through numerous TV and radio appearances on behalf of the office.

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said in February he terminated Chamberlin for lying during an internal investigation last year. Chamberlin denied the accusation.

Chamberlin received a handwritten letter from Richard Wright, his daughter’s club volleyball coach, asking him to write a character reference letter. The request from Wright was “very vague,” according to Chamberlin, who said Wright didn’t specify what he was charged with or where the case was in the judicial process.

Wright was awaiting trial on felony child pornography charges at the time. Wright pleaded guilty to receipt of child pornography Feb. 16.

Chamberlin wrote the letter on behalf of Wright in early September, which he said in February was a “misjudgment.”

“I trusted a man I have known since high school and got burned. Period,” Chamberlin wrote on his Facebook post Thursday. “I honestly don’t have any hatred towards you and sincerely hope you get the help you need. Yes, it cost me a career I embraced for almost twenty-five and a half years, basically half my life. However, it has taught me one thing I thought I’d never say. The longer I am away from this job, the less I miss it.”

Chamberlin, who is divorced and has three daughters, wrote that he has a wedding to prepare for this summer, another “big announcement coming soon” and he has lived his life for his daughters since his divorce.

“If you think I would openly support a person charged with the charges involved in this case, I don’t know what to tell you,” he wrote.

Chamberlin wrote that he had no reason not to trust Wright and did not know it would end up the way it did.

“Regardless of what you hear or want to believe I had no idea what the situation surrounded,” Chamberlin wrote. “I never interjected myself because it was not only not my investigation, I had no idea there was an investigation. I trusted you, I should have asked the one simple question of what was going on, I didn’t, and the rest is history based off subjective thinking and assumptions.”

The investigation found that Chamberlin violated five department policies. Writing the letter was conduct that destroyed public respect and confidence in the operation of police services, according to documentation provided by Knezovich.

Chamberlin received a 320-hour suspension for that violation.

Secondly, he was accused of lying and making misleading statements to investigators, a terminable offense.

He also was found to have violated special notification requirements to let his supervisor know he had been requested to provide information on behalf of the defense. Knezovich previously said deputies are required in that case to notify the department, that would then advise them of the best course of action.

Lastly, Chamberlin was found to violate policies related to sick and administrative leave. While on administrative leave, Chamberlin had a nonemergency medical procedure that made him unavailable during contracted hours. He didn’t notify the department or put in for sick time, which are both policy violations.

Chamberlin filed paperwork Feb. 11 to run for sheriff with the Public Disclosure Commission and was terminated Feb. 15. Chamberlin said he believes the firing was politically motivated. Knezovich won’t run for a fifth term in this year’s election and endorsed Spokane County Undersheriff John Nowels to replace him. Nowels is now the lone candidate who has announced his candidacy for the position.

Chamberlin also thanked members of the community in his post. He said he hopes he has brought laughs and education when they invited him into their home, car or computer.

“In closing, it has been an incredible ride, and other than the past three months or so, I would not give up the countless friendships and memories this community and this job has blessed me with,” he wrote. “Although I won’t be able to help you out in times of need any longer, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll always be around!”