To the Editors of the Tacoma Voice:
[Webpage note: Now the Tacoma Reporter, who declined to publish this March 5, 1998 letter by D. Schafer]
As the whistleblower in Judge Grant L. "Cadillac" Anderson's case, I dispute Pierce County Prosecutor John W. Ladenburg's claim (in your 2/7/98 issue at page 7) that his staff thoroughly investigated the case. The Anderson case involves alleged financial exploitation by Anderson and his law partners, primarily before he became a superior court judge in 1993, of the estate of his deceased client, Chuck Hoffman. I personally met with Ladenburg on February 5, 1996. I provided him and his staff the same documents and sworn statements that ultimately resulted in the "Cadillac kickback" charges filed against Anderson in August 1997 by the Commission on Judicial Conduct (CJC). I personally told Ladenburg that the attorney for Anderson's divorcing wife had suggested to me a few days earlier that someone should look into Anderson's acquisition of his Cadillac. Ladenburg's office, I believe, never seriously investigated Judge Anderson, and closed its so-called investigation on May 1, 1996. Ladenburg's letter to me then said there was "no basis for a criminal complaint."
The public hospital that never got the hundreds of thousands, or possibly millions, of dollars that it should have received from Hoffman's estate is now in civil court seeking a full accounting and recovery from Anderson and his former law partner, Steve Fisher. During Anderson's ethics trial before the CJC in January, it was revealed that when he requested and got a court commissioner's approval of his $112,000 executor's fee from the Hoffman Estate, he never informed the commissioner that he and his partners already had taken $125,000 from the estate as "management fees."
Also, during the trial the CJC released Anderson's December 1996 deposition transcript in which he admitted knowing, and telling his Cadillac-giving friend Bill Hamilton (former Western Community Bank CEO) before selling Pacific Lanes to Bill in the fall of 1992, that Pacific Lanes' building had serious structural problems--including a broken roof truss mended with two-by-fours. Hamilton later claimed to his skeptical insurance company that he first discovered the broken truss in July 1993, and he won a lawsuit and a half-million dollar settlement from the insurance company with help from Bob Pierce (his very close friend who was president of Bratrud Middleton Insurance Agency) and, possibly, from Judge Anderson. Trial testimony also confirmed the falsity of the real estate excise tax affidivat that Anderson and Hamilton signed under penalty of perjury in 1993 reporting Hamilton's purchase of Pacific Lanes' land and building for $508,000, though it was tax-assessed at $988,000 and appraised at $1,250,000. Why Ladenburg and his investigators could find no "criminal activity" is unclear to me.
Ladenburg did not merely ignore the evidence of Anderson's wrongdoing, he actively sought to prevent other investigators from probing it. Four days after I met personally with Ladenburg, his investigator Frank Clark phoned me to say that because the Prosecutor's Office was opening an investigation, I was legally barred from disclosing my Anderson information to any other parties. I told him that I, as an attorney, believed I had a First Amendment right to speak with anybody about anything. Ladenburg then promptly called me. He said that state law confidentiality provisions relating to "inquiry courts" were applicable because he was starting an investigation, and that I would get into serious trouble if I disclosed my information about Anderson to any other parties. I then looked up the state law that Ladenburg mentioned, and I concluded that he was simply wrong. Accordingly, I proceeded to share my Anderson information with the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, the FBI, the Attorney General's staff, the CJC, and the Washington State Bar Association disciplinary staff.
On February 12, 1996, I met with Ladenburg's investigators Frank Clark, Bruce Jackson, and William Garrison, and went over with them the real estate and other public documents that I had gathered. They demonstrated to me an obvious lack of interest. I had the documents copied, and delivered a full set to Clark. Over the ensuing weeks, I continued my own investigation into public records and spoke with various cooperative parties. I gave copies of various statements and memos to Clark, as well as to officials from other agencies. I only spoke with Clark a few times after our initial meeting, and he always appeared uninterested in the case. Because of his apparent disinterest, I decided to make a written record, and on March 6, 1996, I addressed a memo to him by name and title suggesting that he look into specific issues of suspected wrongdoing by Anderson.
On April 26, 1996, I publicly disclosed 59 pages of documents showing Anderson's wrongdoing. I filed them as an appendix to my Court of Appeals petition seeking reversal of a retaliatory order against me by Judge Donald H. Thompson in a case that Judge Anderson had been handling before he recused himself, at my request, on February 2, 1996. I then immediately faxed 15 of those 59 pages to newsrooms at the Tacoma News Tribune, the Seattle Times, and the Seattle Post Intelligencer, offering to provide journalists more information if they were interested. One of those pages was my memo addressed to Ladenburg's investigator Clark. No journalist called me because, I later learned, Clark or Ladenburg apparently discouraged them from pursuing the story.
On May 1, 1996, Ladenburg sent me the brief 5-line letter mentioned above saying there was "no basis for a criminal complaint" against Judge Anderson. Unknown to me, he had provided Anderson and probably to journalists a two-page report of the same date by Clark saying I had made my complaints to many other officials "and now to the press." Clark falsely claimed that he had "been in regular contact with Mr. Schafer on a weekly and often on a daily basis since February." Clark's report concluded that there was no probable cause to believe that any crime occurred during Anderson's handling of the Hoffman estate. In June, a lawyer mentioned Clark's report to me, and later told me that Anderson had shared it with him while the lawyer was hanging around Anderson's chambers with other lawyers. I obtained it in February 1997 only through a public records demand upon the Prosecutor's Office. Judge Anderson, of course, had been sharing it from the day he received it with other officials and private parties to prove his innocence of any wrongdoing.
I leave it to your readers to draw their own conclusions about Ladenburg's lack of interest in the Anderson case. A federal law enforcement official did tell me that Ladenburg does not seem to pay much attention to white-collar crime. He may have good reasons for ignoring it, particularly if, as your article on him reports, he aspires for higher public office.
Douglas A. Schafer, Attorney
March 5, 1998