A Yakima County Superior Court judge Wednesday threw out the criminal case against former Wapato City Administrator Juan Orozco, who had been booked Tuesday into the Yakima County Jail on suspicion of official misconduct.
During a preliminary appearance Wednesday on allegations of corruption in public office, Judge Douglas Federspiel ruled there was “no factual basis” for the charges and dismissed the case.
Orozco, who had been arrested Tuesday, was in custody for the hearing.
Former Wapato City Administrator Juan Orozco was booked into the Yakima County jail on suspicion of official misconduct on Tuesday.
The official jail roster for the Yakima County Department of Corrections shows Orozco was booked into the jail on Tuesday at 3:36 p.m.
The Yakima County Sheriff’s Office, which made the arrest, did not immediately return calls for comment.
Yakima County Prosecutor Joe Brusic said that a criminal investigation, started by his office and the Yakima County sheriff in June, is nearly complete. Brusic said he found out Friday that Orozco was considered a flight risk and so sheriff’s deputies took him into custody.
Brusic added he anticipates the case against Orozco will include a possible felony charge.
Orozco took office as mayor in early 2018. He resigned in September and was appointed to a newly created city administrator position with a $95,000 annual salary.
In May, the Washington State Auditor reported eight findings of unlawful activity and misappropriation of government resources under his administration, including violations of the nepotism policy and state Open Public Meetings Act. State Auditor Pat McCarthy said the findings were so serious she forwarded them to Brusic and the state Attorney General’s Office.
Brusic announced the first week of June that he was starting a criminal investigation into Wapato’s circumstances, in collaboration with the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office.
Using findings from the state auditor report, Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against Orozco and Wapato in June, alleging that Orozco used his position to unjustly enrich himself and that the city had violated the state’s Open Public Meetings Act under his leadership.
Orozco resigned as city administrator July 19 as part of a settlement offered by the Attorney General’s Office in that lawsuit. Under the terms of the settlement, Orozco agreed to resign without severance, to never seek any type of employment with Wapato in the future, and to pay a $500 fine for violating the Code of Ethics for Municipal Employees.
Since coming to power almost two years ago, Orozco has been the subject of eight lawsuits (three ongoing) and nine civil tort claim filings that have cost the city at least $211,000 in attorney fees specific to the lawsuits and $130,000 in settlements to individuals who filed three of the lawsuits.
Councilman Keith Workman said the day’s events do not surprise him.
“I’ve been expecting it,” Workman said. “Corruption was apparent throughout his administration.”
Wapato Mayor Dora Alvarez-Roa, who appointed Orozco to the city administrator position, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.