Past record was heavily researched, mayor says
By Ann McCreary
Winthrop Mayor Rick Northcott said he “wrestled long and hard” with his decision to offer the job of town marshal to a decorated former Washington State Patrol officer who has a misdemeanor criminal record, but feels confident that the new marshal will be a “good fit” for the town.
Long-time state trooper Daniel Tindall, who has a home near Mazama, was scheduled to be on duty Wednesday, Northcott said Tuesday. He fills the marshal’s position that has been vacant since February; the job pays $63,000 per year.
Northcott’s struggle with the decision was due to the fact that Tindall pleaded guilty in June 2016 to a misdemeanor charge of rendering criminal assistance in a case that involved his teenage son. Northcott said he researched the circumstances of the charge and spoke with many people who know Tindall before offering him the job.
Tindall comes to the job with 25 years of law enforcement experience, including working for 11 years on the Washington State Patrol’s executive protection unit, where he provided security for the most recent three Washington governors. He received the patrol’s highest award, the Award of Honor, in 1993 for his actions on the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge across Lake Washington where a Department of Transportation employee had been shot at and others threatened.
In a case that was widely reported in the media, Tindall and his wife were charged with evidence tampering and criminal assistance in connection with an arson attempt by their teenage son in 2015. The evidence tampering charge was dropped, and Tindall pleaded guilty to second degree criminal assistance, according to court records.
“I knew about it. It was public knowledge. It was in the New York Times, the Wenatchee World,” said Northcott. “Everybody knows about it. I’ve had people come up to me and talk to me about it.”
Northcott said he made the job offer only after speaking with numerous people in law enforcement and criminal justice who knew Tindall.
“People stood up for him and said this (incident) wasn’t in character … he was trying to keep his son out of prison,” Northcott said. “I would feel much differently if he had rendered criminal assistance to someone other than his family.”
Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said Northcott called him “at least two or three times” to talk with him about Tindall, who worked for a while as a state trooper in this area.
“I know a lot of guys around here who have worked with him over the years and have respect for him,” Rogers said. “I honestly think he’ll be a good fit for the town. He understands the dynamics” of law enforcement in the Methow Valley.
With regard to hiring a law enforcement officer with a criminal charge on his record, Rogers said, “everybody has done stupid stuff.”
The sheriff’s department won’t hire people who have a felony conviction, he said. But in the case of lesser offenses,”it doesn’t eliminate someone from applying.”
Rogers recalled his own encounter with the law, many years ago, when he was charged with “minor in possession” of alcohol. He said he has fired some deputies for criminal offenses, only to have them returned to their jobs by arbitrators.
“We live in glass houses,” he said. “We’re cops, but that doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes.”
Northcott said he has met with Tindall three or four times and discussed past complaints against him, including the criminal assistance charge. Northcott said he also looked into an occasion in which Tindall had been reprimanded for “improper use of a patrol vehicle” that came up on a background check. “He was conducting private business using a patrol car,” Northcott said. He provided no details about that complaint.
“I’ve asked point-blank questions,” he said. “I wanted to know the answers.”
Tindall successfully passed a background check and polygraph and psychiatric tests required of marshal applicants, Northcott said.
Although the mayor has full authority to hire the marshal, Northcott said he met individually with Winthrop Council members before hiring Tindall “to give my thoughts and get their thoughts.”
Council member Joseph O’Driscoll said he appreciated Northcott’s decision-making process. “I really respect the fact that he wanted to bring everybody in and get input. He went to Olympia to get some records that you have to look up yourself. He really went over it thoroughly.”
“Local law enforcement … spoke well of him (Tindall) and had no qualms working with him,” O’Driscoll continued. “He probably made a mistake … but people deserve a second chance and he’s motivated.”
Council member Ben Nelson said he supports Tindall’s hire: “It definitely gave me pause, but after learning a bit more about the situation, it seemed like it shouldn’t automatically preclude him from hire.”
“It wasn’t an on-the-job kind of incident … and it was family-related and a little more complex than just looking at the police report. You take that into consideration,” Nelson said. “His work history as a whole” is positive. “He received high recommendations from local law enforcement folks who had experience with him.”
Northcott said input from people who know Tindall and his own assessment made him feel comfortable about “the high character of this man … I’m willing to take the chance,” he said.
“Given his background of 25 years of experience … I just didn’t know if we’d get this kind of opportunity again,” Northcott said.
Winthrop has been plagued with a long string of issues that have left the town’s police department understaffed or without any police officers at all on several occasions in recent years.
Most recently, Marshal Hal Henning was fired in February by former Mayor Anne Acheson over an undisclosed personnel matter. Acheson subsequently resigned, largely because of ongoing controversy in the community and dissension on the Town Council over her decision to fire Henning. Winthrop has been contracting for police protection from Twisp since May.