Sheriff raises questions about coroner candidate

Ada's Raney says Chilton misstated his support and qualifications.

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comMay 9, 2014 

Michael Chilton

The former boss of Michael Chilton - one of three Republican candidates for Ada County coroner - disputes the job experience touted by the candidate.

Chilton's campaign website says that he has 16 years in law enforcement "with a strong background in investigations."

"He was a jail deputy for about 15 years," Sheriff Gary Raney said Thursday. "In his entire tenure with the Sheriff's Office, he was never responsible for a significant investigation of any type. Most all of it was in the jail. When he was on patrol, he was a new trainee."

Chilton, a 48-year-old Boisean, worked for the Sheriff's Office from 1994 to 2010, according to department records. He said he was involved in investigations in the different positions he held at the jail and on patrol.

"You do it no matter where you work in the Sheriff's Office. You're always in an investigatory nature," he said. "When crimes happen, you have to investigate them."

Chilton said he investigated multiple violent assaults at the jail and was involved in cases with fatalities while on patrol.

"I carried dead bodies out of houses for the coroner's office," he said. "I pulled dead children off the street in traffic accidents."

Chilton now owns All American Investments. He has taught classes in law enforcement in the professional-technical program for the Meridian School District since 2011, district records show.

Running against Chilton in the May 20 Republican primary are Robert C. Karinen, forensic supervisor at the Ada coroner's office, and Matthew Townsend. The current coroner, Erwin Sonnenberg, is retiring.

Raney said he's heard from a half-dozen people who have indicated Chilton is telling people that the sheriff asked him to run.

"Any statement that I encouraged him to run or supported his election is absolutely false," Raney said Thursday.

Chilton denied that he was telling anyone that Raney had encouraged him to run or was supporting his candidacy. He said Raney was simply "kind enough" to give him some advice.

The Statesman had contacted Raney about Chilton's time with the Ada office and about an on-duty crash.

ACCIDENT INJURED GARDEN CITY WOMAN

Just after midnight on Nov. 1, 2000, at the end of his patrol shift, Chilton was driving east on Fairview Avenue and failed to stop for a red light at Eagle Road, according to Idaho State Police reports.

The patrol car collided with a Toyota Corolla, which was traveling north on Eagle Road. The Toyota's driver, a 26-year-old woman, had to be extricated from the vehicle.

Raney, then a patrol commander, responded to the crash. He said it was the worst crash involving a deputy and a civilian motorist during his 30 years with the department.

"I still, to this day, don't know what caused him to run the red light," Raney said. "I don't know if he was distracted or sleepy. We could never determine that."

The crash victim, who asked the Statesman not to publish her name, suffered a traumatic brain injury and had to relearn to speak, read, write and walk, her mother said in an affidavit for a lawsuit against the county. Medical bills totaled more than $50,000. Three years after the crash, the county settled with the motorist.

Chilton said county attorneys advised him not to discuss the crash with the Statesman.

The young woman recovered, went on to get a master's degree and is working as a counselor at a local school.

"I think, initially, I was really angry," she said Wednesday, "but I've moved on and forgiven him for his actions."

Chilton was cited for failure to obey a traffic signal, a traffic infraction. Online court records show that he paid a fine of $53.

Sheriff's records show that Chilton was transferred from patrol back to the jail a week after the crash.

Chilton worked at the Sheriff's Office for more than a decade after the crash. During the last six months, he worked part time while finishing graduate school and getting his business going, he said.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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