Tumwater School District says it didn’t know of former coach’s DUI arrest

lpemberton@theolympian.comFebruary 16, 2014 

Yarrington: Suspended in December

Tumwater School District officials say they didn’t know former Black Hills High School head football coach Dominic Yarrington completed a 10-day electronic home monitoring program Dec. 5 for violating probation conditions.

In fact, they didn’t know anything about the sentence that’s linked to a June 2012 DUI arrest in Buckley.

Yarrington pleaded the DUI down to a reckless driving charge in September 2012, but he didn’t follow the stipulations required by Buckley Municipal Court, according to documents obtained by The Olympian through a public records request.

“I’m stunned,” Beth Scouller, Tumwater School District’s executive director of human resources said Friday when she learned about it.

Yarrington, 43, was placed on paid administrative leave Dec. 9. District officials said they cannot say why he is under investigation because it’s a personnel issue.

He already has lost his coaching job. In January, Yarrington was informed that his one-year coaching contract would not be renewed by the district.

But he remains on staff as a teacher, pulling an annual salary of $61,447. That doesn’t include the $6,306 stipend he received as a coach, or an additional $2,730.98 bonus he could be eligible for in “self-directed days” that the district traditionally pays teachers for required work that happens outside of school hours, such as attendance at an open house or meetings.

Scouller said the district hadn’t checked further into Yarrington’s criminal background because from what they knew, his record was clear.

“We had enough information that we were looking for,” she said. “I didn’t need to look any further.”

Had the district known about Yarrington’s past, his coaching job application probably wouldn’t have gotten very far, she said.

“We would have had serious reservations about hiring him,” Scouller said. “And if we did go ahead and decide he was the best candidate, … he would not have been allowed to drive students. I wouldn’t want my kid put in a car with a driver who had a DUI — at least recently.”

She said the district doesn’t conduct its own background checks — it uses a service by the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

State law requires a background check no older than two years for new hires, Scouller said.

Yarrington’s records from the Washington State Patrol and Federal Bureau of Investigation came up clear in a check performed by OSPI on July 5, 2011. Any “pending arrests” within one year and convictions show up on OSPI’s background checks, according to Deborah Collinsworth, manager of the criminal records division with the Washington State Patrol.

“The fingerprint results stay in our system for two years, then drop off — which is why they need to be renewed,” OSPI spokesman Nathan Olson said. “Districts can require more frequent checks if they want.”

Had the district waited about two weeks or insisted on a fresh background check, they would have learned of Yarrington’s legal trouble.

DUI arrests aren’t automatic disqualifiers for employment. It depends on the position that’s being filled and when it happened, Scouller said. A DUI from 10 or 20 years ago can probably be explained, she said.

“Newer ones we often look at differently, and often the fact is a coach often drives students. We would have had a conversation,” she said. “With a high school coach, we probably would have advised (district officials) that (Yarrington) may have not been the best hire since it was so new.”

Here’s a timeline of Yarrington’s history, based on court and school district information acquired by public records requests:

June 20, 2012: Yarrington is arrested and booked into jail for suspicion of driving under the influence in Buckley after being pulled over for going 47 mph in a 35 mph zone.

In the report, Buckley Police officer K. Goss says Yarrington’s speech was slurred, and the officer detected the odor of intoxicants. He also notes the driver was “very unsteady on his feet and attempted to lean on the front of the truck.”

Yarrington refuses to take a field sobriety test or a breath sample.

According to Goss’ report, Yarrington laughs several times while his paperwork was getting processed at the police station.

“He told me that he thought it was funny,” the officer wrote.

Yarrington is cited for DUI, speeding 12 miles over the speed limit and operating a motor vehicle without insurance.

July 12, 2012: The city of Buckley’s prosecuting attorney files charges of “driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drug — refusal,” a gross misdemeanor. It states the defendant was operating a vehicle while under the influence, but he refused to take a test that showed alcohol concentration.

July 19, 2012: Yarrington is arraigned and released on his own recognizance.

July 23, 2012: Yarrington attends a DUI victims information panel.

Aug. 18, 2012: Yarrington completes an eight-hour program called the Alcohol and Other Drug Information School.

Sept. 27, 2012: Yarrington pleads guilty to reckless driving to get the DUI charge dropped.

“Although I did not commit the crime charged, I have reviewed the evidence with my attorney and believe there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction on the original charge,” Yarrington wrote. “I am pleading guilty to take advantage of the satisfactory offer.”

As part of the deal, Yarrington is court ordered to pay $1,075 in fines and remain on court supervision until Sept. 27, 2014.

During that time he agrees to law abiding behavior, including no alcohol-related or criminal traffic arrests.

April 4: Black Hills High athletic director Don Farler announces that Yarrington has been hired to replace Jack Zilla who resigned after 15 seasons.

Yarrington spent two seasons as head football coach of West Seattle High School, and had previous football coaching stints at Tyee, Lindbergh and White River high schools. A small newspaper that covers Buckley refers to Yarrington’s career as “nomadic.”

June 4: Yarrington is cited by a Puyallup police officer for driving 41 mph in a 30 mph zone.

The vehicle that was being driven didn’t have an interlock device that’s required by the state Department of Licensing, according to the officer.

Buckley Municipal Court is notified of the citations.

June 18: Tumwater School District has OSPI run a background check on Yarrington. His fingerprints are on file, and his history comes up clear as of July 5, 2011, which is within the two-year window for background checks.

June 19: Yarrington is offered a job with the Tumwater School District to become a social studies and English teacher at Black Hills High School.

Sept. 19: Yarrington signs three separate employment contracts with the district. His annual salary is $61,447 for teaching; his coaching contract is for $6,306, and he receives a supplemental employment contract for 8 days outside of his regular duties, valued at $2,730.98.

In the coaching contract, he agrees to meet coaching standards by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

Conor Laffey, sports and activities information director with the WIAA, said criminal records aren’t something that the association deals with, so Yarrington wasn’t obligated to report his conviction.

“We rely strictly on the schools’ and the school districts’ policies,” Laffey said.

Nov. 21: Yarrington is ordered by Buckley Municipal Court to 10 days of electronic home monitoring for violating conditions of a sentence by committing new violations.

House arrests restrict defendants to their homes, although they are allowed to go to work or attend special functions, such as medical appointments, according to a statement on the 2 Watch Monitoring’s website, which provided the monitoring service. “Law enforcement officers apply electronic home monitoring whereby the defendants must always wear monitoring ankle bracelets.”

Dec. 5: Yarrington completes the electronic home monitoring, which was from Nov. 25 to Dec. 5, according to a letter to the court from 2 Watch Monitoring.

Dec. 9: Yarrington is placed on paid leave by the Tumwater School District.

Officials won’t say why he’s under investigation, stating that they can’t because it’s a personnel issue.

However the issue did not rise to the level where officials felt they needed to contact the police, according to district spokeswoman Kim Howard.

Jan. 15: Yarrington is given a nonrenewal letter for his coaching job.

Under his direction, Black Hills went 4-5 overall and 2-3 in 2A Evergreen Conference play.

“The district would like to thank you for the time and effort you have contributed to this assignment and working with the students of the Tumwater School District,” states the letter.

Feb. 7: Black Hills High School announces that longtime assistant coach Kirk Stevens has been hired to head the school’s football program.

Howard recently said Yarrington still is under investigation, and officials have not yet made a decision on the status of his teaching contract. They expect to have a decision by the end of this month.

“We’re really close,” Howard said. “There are just some time frames that have to be adhered to.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 lpemberton@theolympian.com

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