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Candidate addresses allegations
For years, allegations about Sumner City Councilman and 31st District Senate candidate Matt Richardson’s past have dogged him. Rumors of all sorts, including a criminal background, have simply refused to go away.
This year, as Richardson is attempting to step up to a state-level office, the accusations have again surfaced, including on a website designed to look like a campaign page for Richardson that is being run by a supporter of his opponent, Sen. Pam Roach.
But as the Nov. 2 general election approaches, Richardson sat for an exclusive interview with The Courier-Herald to discuss the allegations.
Perhaps the most disturbing of the allegations is an accusation of abuse involving Richardson’s cousins. Richardson and his female cousins were all minors at the time of the multiple occurrences, which are alleged to have happened in the early 1980s. Richardson was a young teen at the time and the girls were several years younger.
Richardson was cleared of the charges within three months and a GR 15 was issued. A GR 15 is a document designed to destroy, seal and redact all court papers regarding the incident. Because of that, records of the case and the charges are not available, including the GR 15 itself, though Richardson has a copy, which was examined by The Courier-Herald.
“I was accused of something as a minor 32 years ago,” Richardson said Sept. 2. “They never had any proof of anything, that’s why it was dismissed three and a half months later.”
However, an order of protection suit brought in 1992 by Richardson’s aunt and uncle when he was working as a security guard in the Kent School district, is available through the King County Courts and includes a determination of probable cause, which includes many of the actual allegations.
Richardson denies all of the allegations and points to the time between the alleged events and the court case as an indication that it was a false charge.
“If the charges were accurate, why would he wait 12 years to bring them against me?” Richardson asked. “I was the victim of a wrongful prosecution.”
Though a protection order was initially granted, it too was dismissed “with prejudice” in January 1993.
The Courier-Herald has decided not to publish the specific allegations as Richardson has been cleared of the charges.
Richardson also points to his multiple background checks since that time as further proof his record is clean. Because of his job as a teacher, as well as his previous work experience in the U.S. House of Representatives, the state Senate and as an adjunct professor for the U.S. Navy, Richardson has been through numerous background checks, including multiple checks from the FBI, Homeland Security, Department of Defense and the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
In addition to the documents from the early-1990s, an additional set of papers has shown up detailing the end of Richardson’s employment with the Federal Way School District in 2006.
The issue revolved around an allegation of sexual and malicious harassment involving three female students at the middle school where Richardson taught English Language Learning.
The girls alleged that Richardson stared at the students’ breasts and buttocks, appeared to obtain arousal in the classroom, had worn pants that purposefully exposed his buttocks, yelled at students and called them derogatory names and allowed a male student to grab a female student.
After an investigation by the district, Richardson was cleared of the malicious and sexual harassment accusations, though he did receive a letter of reprimand for using inappropriate language, yelling at students and allowing a male student to touch a female student after a request was made to intervene. The letter states, the “effect of your actions had towards (sic) creating a hostile learning environment in which students experienced extreme discomfort and a fear of your reprisals.”
Earlier this year, a series of e-mails between Richardson and a woman who was a member of the Sumner Planning Commission also drew attention because of exchanges between the two that appear sexually charged. In one e-mail, the pair appear to be setting up a tryst at a Seattle hotel, leading to accusations of an affair between the two.
Richardson vehemently denies having an affair with the woman and said the e-mails were an “inside joke” about Sumner being a “rumor mill” and how people would talk if the two of them were seen together.
Richardson says the e-mails were “crass” and that the two got “carried away” but insists the innuendo was all a joke.
For many, the question is – with a past like the one he appears to have – why would Richardson run for a higher office, knowing the allegations would likely come out?
“I was falsely accused and I stand on my experience over the last 16 years,” he said.