King County's director of adult and juvenile detention resigned the position today after he was placed on paid administrative leave, less than five months after Executive Ron Sims hired him, calling him "an innovative leader in the field of corrections in this region."

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King County’s director of adult and juvenile detention resigned the position today after he was placed on paid administrative leave, less than five months after Executive Ron Sims hired him, calling him “an innovative leader in the field of corrections in this region.”


In a statement released today, Sim’s office said Kenneth Ray, 46, resigned yesterday in a letter to Sims.


Ray was confronted Wednesday afternoon with allegations of “workplace concerns” and notified that he had been placed on leave while the county investigated, said a Sims spokeswoman, Carolyn Duncan.


Duncan declined to discuss details of the investigation being conducted by the county’s human-resources department.


Anita Whitfield, King County Human Resources director, said that in fairness to the people involved, no details would be released.


Ray’s resignation is effective Jan. 28, to facilitate the effective transition of ongoing projects, according to Sims’ office.


Sources familiar with the allegations said the workplace concerns involved the way Ray treated some of his employees and some of the things he said to them.


Contacted at his Issaquah home, Ray declined to comment yesterday.


Ray, hired by King County in August after a year-long national search, previously served 10 years as head of the Yakima County Department of Corrections and Security. His appointment by Sims was to have gone before the Metropolitan King County Council for confirmation next week, Duncan said.


She added that Sims’ office hires executive appointees whose positions later must be confirmed by the County Council.


Jared Karstetter, legal counsel to the King County Corrections Guild, said the union had just begun its own investigation into Ray’s background to see whether it would endorse him before the County Council.


He said the investigation so far had turned up both positive and negative reviews.


Ray, who was born in Oregon, has spent 27 years in law enforcement. He was a police officer and undersheriff in Texas for nine years before moving to Washington, according to biographical information released by the county.


As corrections director in King County, Ray was hired to oversee one of the largest jail systems in the country, with nearly 2,300 adult inmates and 120 juvenile offenders, according to the county release.


The move from Yakima to King County brought a significant pay raise – he went from making $90,000 a year in Yakima to $120,500 a year here.


While in Yakima, Ray oversaw a dramatic increase in jail programs, financed by renting jail beds to other counties, cities and federal agencies. County bed-rental income skyrocketed to millions of dollars yearly. Ray also took the lead in planning for a new county jail, but as he left, the project was beginning to unravel.


Yesterday, King County deputy corrections director Reed Holtgeerts, now acting interim director, e-mailed corrections staff about Ray’s departure. He wrote: “I have been asked to fill the role of Interim Director while Ken Ray is on leave. Mr. Ray is on leave until further notice. If you have any questions, please contact your commander or division manager. Thank you in advance for your hard work, professionalism, and support as I fill this interim role.”


“It’s a big mystery,” a source inside the county corrections department said. “Rumors are flying like crazy.”


Yakima Herald-Republic staff reporters David Lester and Mark Morey contributed to this report.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

Michael Ko: 206-515-5653 or mko@seattletimes.com