Washougal Mayor Sean Guard will be expected to appear in Cowlitz County District Court next month, to enter a plea on a charge of second degree criminal impersonation.
His arraignment for the gross misdemeanor of impersonating a law enforcement officer is scheduled for Wednesday, July 6, at 2:30 p.m., at the Hall of Justice in Kelso. Guard could face 0 to 365 days in jail, and the maximum fine for a gross misdemeanor is $5,000.
He was stopped by a State Patrol trooper on Dec. 24, 2010, along I-5 near Kelso. The trooper responded to a dispatch issued after someone called 911 about a person who was using emergency lights in order to get slower traffic to move out of the left lane.
Guard said the car – a 1995 Ford Taurus previously driven by former Police Chief Bob Garwood – does not have emergency lights. He said he was alternating between the use of no front lights to high beams to get the attention of drivers who were traveling in front of him at speeds lower than the speed limit.
“The left lane is the passing lane,” Guard said, in December. “That’s the way I drive. There are signs along I-5 that say the left lane is for passing only.”
The charge was filed June 14. Guard said after the City Council meeting last night he had not yet been served with an order to appear in court.
In a written statement issued Thursday, Guard said he respected the decision of the prosecuting attorney’s office.
“I again apologize to the citizens and staff of the City of Washougal,” he wrote. “The decision to use my city-issued vehicle that day was mine and mine alone, and I apologize for the embarrassment that my lack of judgment in using that vehicle in that situation has brought to our city.
“I do most sincerely appreciate all of the calls, notes and words of encouragement that my family and I have received in the last day,” Guard added. “I will not have any further comment on this issue until after the court proceedings are concluded.”
He was a Camas reserve police officer for approximately five years in the 1980s.
In January, the Washougal City Council amended a chapter in the city’s personnel policies, to include language that prohibits the assignment of take home vehicles to elected officials. At the time of the traffic stop, Guard was traveling to the South Tacoma area on a day trip unrelated to city business.
Guard returned the former police car to the city’s surplus fleet on Jan. 3. It had been assigned to him in the early part of 2010.