Santa Barbara undersheriff retires amid sexting scandal
November 27, 2013
Former Santa Barbara County Undersheriff Jim Peterson exchanged more than 1,500 text messages in the last year with a female employee of the sheriff’s office in the last year, according to a claim filed earlier this month with the Santa Barbara County Clerk’s Office. [Independent]
Peterson retired from the sheriff’s office last month after Sheriff Bill Brown launched an investigation into an alleged affair his second-in-command was having with former search and rescue team spokesperson Valerie Walston.
The sheriff’s office demoted Walston from her position and terminated on October 22. Walston then filed the sexual harassment claim with the county on November 15. The claim is the first step in the process of filing a civil lawsuit.
“Ms. Walston’s termination on October 22, 2013, was clearly pretextual due to the fact that she was forced to engage in a sexual with Mr. Peterson,” the claim alleges. “Finally, as a result of everything that has happened, she has also been blackballed in the community and lost everything that she had held so dear to her.”
Walston alleges Peterson used his position to coerce her into sexting, kissing, groping and fondling.
However, the results of the sheriff’s office outside investigation told a different narrative, Brown said.
“The narrative attached to the plaintiff’s tort claim is an incomplete representation of what transpired compared to the results of our investigation,” Brown said.
Sources told independent that Walston pursued a relationship with Peterson so he would promote her. Walston had applied to become the sheriff’s public information officer position, but did not receive the position.
The claim alleges that in the string of text messages Peterson wanted Walston to refer to them as “Christian” and “Anastasia,” two characters from the novel Fifty Shades of Grey. He also asked her to speak French to him, the claim alleges.
“She clearly knew that she had lost complete control over the situation and had to do whatever Mr. Peterson said or risk losing the one job that she loved and any potential for career advancement,” the claim states.