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Report: Former Wash. DOC chief admits to affair with staffer

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington’s former prisons chief has admitted to an extramarital affair with a subordinate. And Seattle TV stations are airing video they say shows Eldon Vail leaving a motel with that staffer. Vail resigned suddenly last Friday.

Vail told the Seattle Times he resigned after hearing about the video Seattle TV stations say shows him leaving a Motel 6 near Olympia with a female Department of Corrections staffer. The TV stations say they got the video from other Corrections employees. In his interview with the Times, Vail acknowledged the affair with the 49-year old manager calling it “inappropriate.”

Vail says he did not give the woman preferential treatment at work or use state resources to conduct the relationship. Vail’s abrupt departure ends a more than three decades long career with Washington’s prison system. In January 2008, Governor Chris Gregoire called him out of retirement to head the agency.

He was at the helm through deep budget cuts, the murders of four Lakewood police officers by a parolee and the murder earlier this year of Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl inside the prison at Monroe. Gregoire and lawmakers have praised Vail’s leadership. He did not respond to phone calls, a text message and a visit to his home.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.