Washougal Mayor Sean Guard entered a guilty plea Thursday afternoon in Cowlitz County District Court to a misdemeanor charge that he impersonated a police officer almost one year ago.
Guard entered a plea to a second-degree criminal impersonation charge, indicating he did not agree with the facts presented, but acknowledging the possibility a jury could find him guilty. According to Guard, he has already paid a $500 fine and $118 in court costs and must still serve 25 hours of community service.
Prosecutors had alleged Guard used the emergency lights on his city-owned vehicle to pass slower traffic on Interstate 5 near Kelso on Dec. 24, 2010. Guard previously entered a not guilty plea July 11, but decided to plead guilty “for the good of our community and my family,” he wrote in a prepared statement.
Guard’s trial had been set for Jan. 6 in Judge Edward Putka’s court.
“Again, I apologize to our community for doing anything that has brought negative attention to Washougal, and I look forward to moving beyond this and continuing our good work,” Guard wrote, adding he was “embarrassed” by the incident.
He declared in his written statement he knew three things about his traffic stop. However, those three things shed little light on the events that led to his stop.
“I know what I did, I know what I did not do, and I also know that whatever my actions were, they caused another person to contact authorities,” he wrote.
Guard told The Columbian three days after the incident happened that he and his wife had taken a needy family to breakfast and shopping and were driving them home when the incident occurred. He was not conducting city business, he said in the Dec. 27, 2010, interview.
Guard and his wife’s perspective on helping people — whether that meant giving others a ride, changing a tire for someone, stopping to help people whose car broke down, etc. — has changed, he wrote Thursday.
“Unfortunately, as a result of all this, we do not even take the chance that someone will misconstrue any intentions or offers of assistance,” Guard wrote.
Washougal council members interviewed Thursday night indicated they were ready to move on to more important city business.
“It’s probably best for the city anytime there’s a negative news story out there to get it out of the way quickly and not let it linger,” councilman Jon Russell said, noting such events caused “animosity and hard feelings.”
“Frankly, I always thought it was a tempest in a teapot,” councilman Paul Greenlee added. “It was stupid on his part ... but let’s pay attention to what matters.”
Greenlee believed the finance committee had approved removing the light bar from Guard’s emergency vehicle last year.
“My understanding is there were no reds and blues on the car,” said Greenlee, who was on the finance committee in 2010.
Guard’s attorney Kris Carrasco and Cowlitz County prosecutors were unavailable for comment Thursday night.
Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.twitter.com/col_smallcities; firstname.lastname@example.org.