Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Investigation leads to sexual abuse

Bellevue city worker accused of misuse of computer

Express Staff Writer

An initial investigation into the alleged misuse of the City of Bellevue?s computers to view pornography led to the arrest of Bellevue?s water, sewer and street superintendent on a charge of sexual abuse of a minor.

Police arrested Brian Whipple, 37, of Carey, on Sept. 3 and he was arraigned in 5th District Court in Hailey on the charge of sexual abuse of a minor, a felony. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also is investigating Whipple?s possible involvement in a child pornography network.

The sexual abuse allegations stem from an initial investigation tipped off by Whipple?s coworkers.

According to Bellevue Marshal Randy Tremble, Whipple?s coworkers notified city authorities that they suspected he was viewing pornography on city computers.

?The city employees saw this and reported it,? Tremble said. ?They feel extremely betrayed.?

In response to the reports from Bellevue City employees, the city conducted an investigation into the alleged abuse and misuse of city-owned property, Tremble said. Court documents reveal that police allegedly found archived and deleted files that indicated Whipple accessed child pornography sites on a regular basis from his work computer.

According to court documents, when police interviewed Whipple regarding the alleged misuse of the computers, he admitted to touching a 13-year-old girl inappropriately.

After his arraignment, Whipple was released on a $10,000 bond. The court ordered him to remain in Blaine County, and issued an order of no contact with minors.

Hailey attorney Cheri Hicks has been appointed public defender for Whipple.

At the time of his arrest, Whipple gave his resignation as the Bellevue water, sewer and street superintendent. Whipple?s alleged actions violated Bellevue?s city policy, which he had agreed to by signing the city?s policy and procedure handbook.

The city of Bellevue is looking for a new department head, City Administrator Jack Stoneback said.

Mayor John Barton did not return phone calls concerning the matter.

According to Tremble, the investigation into the alleged child pornography remains open and possible charges are pending. The FBI is analyzing evidence specific to Whipple?s involvement in a possible child pornography network.

The city of Bellevue hired Whipple in January 2004. His appointment came just after he had resigned as Rocky Ford?s public works director in October 2003. While in Rocky Ford, Colo., Whipple ran for school board in November 2003.

Sexual abuse of a minor carries penalties of 15 years jail time and a $50,000 fine. A preliminary hearing is set for 9 a.m. Sept. 15.

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