Ending months of speculation, former Olympia City Councilman Jeff Kingsbury acknowledged Tuesday that he was the confidential informant who twice bought marijuana from then-Councilman Joe Hyer, resulting in Hyer's arrest and the apparent end of his political career.
“I am the confidential informant in the Joe Hyer case,” Kingsbury wrote in a statement e-mailed to The Olympian on Tuesday afternoon. “No other person outside of law enforcement collaborated with me in the effort to bring this matter to the court’s attention.”
In a brief interview, Kingsbury confirmed that he sent the statement but declined to answer any other questions.
Kingsbury said in his statement that he was not politically motivated to name Hyer.
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“This was simply a matter of conscience. It was a difficult decision because I knew I would receive harsh criticism from the defendant’s closest friends and allies. I would do it again.”
Hyer was sentenced Monday to 10 days of jail with work release and 240 hours of community service for one felony charge of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance, as part of an agreement with prosecutors, who had initially charged him with three felonies. In a late addition to the agreement announced Monday, Hyer agreed not to name the informant.
“I am shocked and dismayed,” Hyer said after a reporter read him Kingsbury’s statement. “I guess he never felt like he was a friend of mine, and that’s what hurts the most.”
The Thurston County Narcotics Task Force arrested Hyer on Feb. 18 at his home on Legion Way. Hyer initially pleaded not guilty to three felony charges, but later accepted a plea agreement to one felony charge to avoid the prospect of years in prison.
Kingsbury suggested there were more details the public doesn’t know.
“It is unfortunate that this did not go to trial because there are details of this case that will never be publicly disclosed and I cannot discuss them. I will simply say this: A reasonable person does not plead to a felony if they sold only a small amount of pot once or twice.”
Asked what Kingsbury meant by that, Hyer said, “I have no idea.” Hyer maintains he is not a drug dealer.
“I stand by my statement that I have not or have never been in the marijuana business,” Hyer said.
HYER’S DEFENSE DISPUTED
In his statement, Kingsbury also disputed statements in Hyer’s defense filings that the informant was a close friend and mentor who induced him to commit a crime he wouldn’t otherwise have committed.
“All of the allegations made about me in the defendant’s court filing were fabrications and he has consistently mischaracterized our relationship. We were not close friends and I was not his mentor. Actually, he served in public office before I did and often reminded me of that fact in public meetings. I was not coerced by law enforcement to cooperate with them, I do not have a ‘criminal background’ that I hid from the defendant.”
Kingsbury admitted to being arrested for driving under the influence in Bellingham in 2007, which is verified in court records. He requested deferred prosecution, which was granted, after stating that his conduct was caused by alcoholism. Under deferred prosecution, the court would dismiss the charge against Kingsbury no sooner than three years after he completes a two-year treatment program and complies with other conditions. The court granted the request in January 2008.
Kingsbury said he completed treatment.
“I have spoken publicly about my recovery since the day I entered treatment,” he wrote. “I recently was the featured speaker at the Drug Court graduation ceremony.”
Hyer said that Kingsbury lied to him about a circumstance of the DUI. Hyer said Kingsbury gave Hyer a ride home after the City Council retreat in January 2009 and he noticed there was an interlock device on the car. Such a device requires that the driver breathe into it to confirm there is no trace of alcohol before the car will start.
Hyer said Kingsbury told him the device was there because Kingsbury’s gay partner at the time was part of a voluntary program to help him recover from alcoholism.
Hyer said he didn’t learn of the DUI until recently, and didn’t think anyone else on the council was aware. “He’s been lying to me that long,” he said.
Mayor Doug Mah, the only current council member who was on the council in 2007, said he didn’t know of the DUI. “I have very little insight into the personal lives of my elected colleagues,” he said.
Kingsbury served on the City Council from 2006 to 2009, when Stephen Buxbaum defeated him in the November election. Hyer was appointed to the council to fill a vacancy in 2004, then was elected to four-year terms in 2005 and 2009. He resigned April 10.
Hyer maintains he still doesn’t know why someone he considered a friend would “try to send me to prison,” and said it could be politically motivated, contrary to Kingsbury’s statement.
“He was involved in politics and wasn’t at the time, in January,” Hyer said. “He had a 15-year relationship that broke up. I found my husband and was elected to the council and re-elected so I don’t know if there was resentment, I don’t know if there was spite. I rack my brain trying to figure out what possible motive (he had).”
Hyer said Kingsbury knew Hyer had marijuana for more than four years. Hyer said he gave Kingsbury a small amount of marijuana during Lakefair in July 2006 because Kingsbury was going through a rough period in his life and knew Hyer said he used marijuana to treat chronic insomnia, though he occasionally used it recreationally.
In early February, Kingsbury told him that his new male lover “likes treats” and wondered where he could get some, Hyer said. Hyer said he now doesn’t believe there was a lover.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Hyer said. “I don’t know why I didn’t see it. It appears that, you know, I have friends that are really, really good liars, and actors.”
Asked why Kingsbury would work to have him arrested, Hyer replied, “It’s been a question plaguing my mind. I admit if he had a problem with the fact there was cannabis in my house, I wish he would have just come to me and said I have a problem with this. If he had a concern or thought I was selling it, I wish he would have asked me because, no, I’m not. He’s known for so long I can’t fathom it.”
Hyer said the moment that it was confirmed a confidential informant was involved after his Feb. 18 arrest, he knew exactly who it was and told family members and other people that night and the following morning.
He said he was prepared to name the individual but didn’t follow through on the advice of his lawyer. The day after his arraignment, when his lawyer filed paperwork that a trusted political mentor induced Hyer to sell the marijuana, Hyer said he got a call from prosecutors and a lawyer representing Kingsbury saying “it would be really good if you kept that number quiet,” he said. Hyer said he contacted the people March 10 and told them to spread a rumor that it was an old high school friend.
AN INFORMANT LONG RUMORED
Kingsbury’s name had been protected until Tuesday, though he has long been rumored to be the informant. Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Scott Jackson said Kingsbury “requested that Hyer not be able to disclose him publicly.” He said that’s moot now that Kingsbury has identified himself, and Hyer’s attorney Ken Valz agreed.
On March 12, Kingsbury refused to answer when twice asked by a reporter for The Olympian whether he was the confidential informant.
“I don’t think it serves the public interest to be speculating about these issues,” he said at the time. “I think the most important thing is that Mr. Hyer receives a fair and impartial trial.”
Kingsbury told a reporter Feb. 20 that he questioned whether Hyer even would be charged.
“He has the opportunity to continue in public service if this were all to be resolved,” he said. Kingsbury added that Hyer has been a giant advocate for downtown and a supporter of a range of positive things, including athletics and the arts.
“His two businesses are important parts of our downtown business community,” he said.
Jackson said Kingsbury came forward to Sheriff Dan Kimball because, according to Kingsbury, Hyer asked Kingsbury if he wanted to buy marijuana, or if he knew anybody who wanted to buy some marijuana, to give him a call.
Kimball has said two “concerned citizens” told him Hyer might be involved in drug activity during a meeting in early January. Kimball forwarded Kingsbury’s name and number to the task force’s supervisor during a meeting Jan. 6, records show. The identity of the second concerned citizen is unknown. The sheriff did not respond to a message seeking comment Tuesday.
Kingsbury told investigators that Hyer’s drug activity as an elected official offended his conscience, Jackson said. Prosecutors asked Kingsbury whether he would participate in the undercover operation, and he was reluctant at first. But task force detectives told him “that was the only way that we could continue the investigation,” Jackson said. Had Kingsbury not agreed to participate as the confidential informant, “we wouldn’t have been able to prove anything,” Jackson said.
“The person that’s buying has to trust the person that’s selling.”
Jackson said rumors that Kingsbury got in trouble with the law and volunteered to be a confidential informant in order to avoid a criminal charge are false. He takes exception to Hyer’s defense that he is not a drug dealer. “If you sell drugs for money, then by definition, you’re a drug dealer.”
Staff reporters Christian Hill and Jeremy Pawloski contributed to this report.