No charges were filed against Stowe Fire Department’s chief Kyle Walker after a three-month-long investigation into sex crime allegations.
Walker was, however, suspended for 10 days without pay and lost his other job, as a part-time police officer, when it was mutually agreed that he would step down, according to his boss, town manager Charles Safford.
He allegedly had sex — on duty, in his cruiser — about a decade ago.
While he didn’t mention the nature of the accusations against him, Walker admitted violating police department rules in a written statement.
“This past January, the Vermont State Police launched an investigation based on allegations against me,” Walker wrote in the statement this week. “The investigation, along with review from the state’s attorney, determined that there were no grounds for prosecution. From the onset, I have been completely transparent with the investigation and my employer.
“During the investigation, I revealed that approximately 10 years ago, while employed as a Stowe Police officer, I violated police department general orders. The town of Stowe did take corrective action, and without dispute, I accepted that consequence.”
Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault, who reviewed the case against Walker, explained Walker was accused of sexual assault, lewd and lascivious conduct and neglect of duty.
Thibault reviewed the Vermont State Police investigation upon Lamoille County State’s Attorney Todd Shove’s request, since the case alleged law enforcement misconduct in Lamoille County.
“It’s best to have someone neutral or not attached,” Thibault said.
A request to Vermont State Police for more information went unanswered.
Walker admitted to investigators he had had sex with a woman in his police car while parked, in at least one instance, behind the Swimming Hole gym, according to Thibault.
The woman with whom he engaged said she was sexually assaulted by Walker.
In his April 5 summation of the review, Thibault said there was not enough evidence to support a criminal charge of sexual assault, partly because Walker’s statements on the incidents were consistent with the complainant’s account “and against his own interest.”
Stowe Reporter does not name alleged victims of sexual assault.
“The complaining witness’ account indicates an unhealthy sexual relationship, but the disclosures fall short of demonstrating lack of consent for any specific encounter or a sufficient basis upon which to conclude the acts were forced or coerced by the words or actions of (Walker),” Thibault wrote.
Adding a wrinkle to the investigation, Thibault said, the woman made unsubstantiated claims that Walker played a part in a series of arsons in Stowe for which another person was arrested, around the same time the allegations were made against Walker.
Thibault said her arson allegations “would almost certainly” have been brought up at trial, calling into question her credibility and bias.
As for the lewd and lascivious charge, Thibault said, although the sexual encounters were in a police cruiser or public places, they did not appear to take place out in the open.
Also, he said, the statute of limitations has passed on the lewd and lascivious allegations.
“Time is sometimes the enemy,” Thibault said this week.
Too much time passed for the neglect of duty charge, too, although Thibault believes he could have made that stick. He said there is reason to believe that an officer in uniform — “or not, as the case may be,” he said — having sex in a police cruiser might not be able to perform his actual duties if an emergency arose.
“It’s just using common sense,” he said. “In the military, we used to call that prejudicial to good order and discipline.”
Walker was placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 12 and was required to turn over his gun and badge at that time.
After Thibault opted against pressing charges, Safford said he felt the 10-day suspension without pay was suitable punishment.
Walker, asked if he felt the community of Stowe can still trust him and if he can still maintain the respect and trust of his fellow officers, answered via written statement:
“I am very sorry for that and apologize for any shame or embarrassment that my actions may have caused. I also understand that this news may have diminished the community’s trust in me,” he said. “This was an isolated event many years ago. I hope that I can regain your trust and faith as the fire chief while I continue to serve the Stowe community, as I have done for many years. Out of respect for everyone involved, I can’t comment on any further details of the investigation.”