V9i2 circling the wagons 001

Narrated by Shae Strong

William ‘Bill’ McKay, former Mayor of Kennewick, resigned from office after public records surfaced that he had confessed to receiving sexual services from women who were being sex trafficked. 

[Editor’s note: Read the previous article about Bill McKay’s involvement in businesses that are sex trafficking, Corpus delicti.]

McKay first spoke to Kennewick Police in February 2023 about illegal services at massage parlors, and the story ends with the Special Prosecutor declining to charge McKay in December. 

It was February 28, 2023 when Kennewick Police Chief Chris Guerrero was pulled aside by Mayor William ‘Bill’ McKay after a Council Workshop. This was the first time McKay had spoken to Chief Guerrero about his concerns with sex trafficking at massage parlors in Kennewick. 

Chief Guerrero was also the first person to know that Mayor McKay was receiving sexual services at massage parlors. The list of people who knew and chose to not disclose this information publicly is long. 

In the following story, we will outline the eleven people who were made aware of McKay’s actions and confessions between February and November of 2023.

#1: Police Chief Chris Guerrero

February 28, 2023

From Chief Guerrero’s notes (obtained through public records requests) regarding McKay: 

He stated he wanted to talk about massage parlors. He said he has concerns about them. He wanted to confirm that even if both adults had consented to sex if it is still unlawful if money was exchanged. I told him that was still prostitution and this is illegal. He told me he was aware of several locations that may not be operating in an appropriate manner. Not knowing the totality of his knowledge I let him know that this was something we were aware of and have worked on in the past. I also told him that there was a current investigation we were aware of and a potential search warrant was being served soon. I had been briefed that an outside jurisdiction was conducting a money laundering investigation involving massage parlors but could not recall when they were going to be conducting their search warrants. He asked when a good time was to stop in so we could discuss this further. I told him to call or shoot me a text so we could set something up.

#2: City Manager Marie Mosley

February 28, 2023

Chief Guerrero told City Manager Marie Mosley about his conversation with McKay. According to Guerrero, McKay made it clear that he did not want Mosley to be aware of the conversation. 

From Mosley’s notes:

On our way out of City Hall, Chief let me and Chief Michael know that the conversation was regarding some massage businesses in the City that the Mayor was frequenting (since 2020 when he was in a car accident) and that he was aware they were doing illegal activities by providing sexual favors. Apparently, he has a list of massage businesses that he will provide the chief.

#3: Public Relations & Customer Service Manager Evelyn Lusignan, and #4: Fire Chief Chad Michael

February 28, 2023

Guerrero wrote that Public Relations & Customer Service Manager Evelyn Lusignan and Fire Chief Chad Michael were present when he told the City Manager about the conversation with McKay. 

The next day, March 1st, Mayor McKay came to the station. McKay had a full notebook of ‘research’ that he pulled three pages from. According to Guerrero: 

Each [page] had a different heading. They were titled “Offer Full Sex,” “Happy Endings,” and “Massage Only.” “Offer Full Sex” had 5 business names with addresses or general areas. “Happy Endings” had 6 business names with addresses or general areas listed. “Massage Only” had 5 locations listed with business names and either addresses or general areas. Mayor McKay provided some info about having back issues in 2020 and not being able to get into the normal massage therapist. This is when he started going to these massage locations.

Guerrero explained to McKay at the time that these massage parlors had video cameras and McKay asked if they were in the rooms. McKay then stated that he had been propositioned for sexual favors; however, he didn’t acknowledge paying for them at that time. McKay also said he was willing to assist in the investigation, but Guerrero told him to allow the police to investigate. 

#5: Commander Aaron Clem, Kennewick Police Criminal Investigation Division

March 1, 2023

Guerrero sent the information provided by McKay to Evelyn Lusignan and Commander Aaron Clem. From Guerrero’s notes: 

It should be noted that a detective from Wenatchee had indeed been in the Tri-Cities (including Kennewick) to serve search warrants at a massage parlor related to [a] money laundering case they had been working on. I was later advised the locations were empty when the warrant was served. There was a belief the location was tipped off prior to the service.

From Mosley’s notes:

Mayor McKay stopped by the chief’s office and provided him a list of 16 massage  businesses massage parlors (sic) in the City; 
○ 5 of the businesses — ‘Offering Full Sex’ 
○ 6 of the businesses — ‘Happy Endings’ 
○ 5 of the businesses — ‘Massage Only’ 

Five days later on March 6, Chief Guerrero met with City Manager Mosley and Commander Clem. The discussion centered around what had occurred with McKay and how they would handle this investigation. According to Mosley, “Chief, Dan, and I met regarding this topic and the main decision was to make sure we treat [McKay] no differently than anyone else providing this information.”

Mosley, Guerrero, and Clem discussed having McKay provide a statement and Guerrero said he would ask McKay “if he would be willing to meet with detectives to discuss what he had experienced.”

The next day — March 7 — McKay returned to the police station. McKay stated that he had gone to another massage parlor and initiated a conversation with the masseuse about her providing him with sex. Guerrero’s notes state that McKay “had gone into a location and a female in a robe, who did not speak English, rushed him into a room. Once in the room he asked, ‘how much’ and made a hole shape with his fingers and used his pointer finger to put it in the hole.* He said the female wrote ‘$160’ on his palm. He said he then left.”

From Mosley’s notes:

Mayor spoke with Chief; said he went to another establishment and she answered with a robe on; she went back with him and took off her robe and Mayor requested what it would cost for sex (communication wasn’t good so he did a gesture with his figure/hand); she wrote on his hand $160; he said he didn’t partake; Chief contacted me and I questioned if that would be considered soliciting prostitution.

*Patronizing a prostitute is a misdemeanor in Washington state. Criminal solicitation is a felony.

Guerrero asked McKay to meet with detectives to tell them what he had “experienced” and how things occurred. McKay was willing. 

McKay continued to visit massage parlors in the meantime; and on March 10th, he contacted Guerrero to say he had gone to another location. Guerrero wrote: 

On this occasion, I was more directed on telling him to discontinue going into these locations. I also asked if our detectives or Detective Sergeant had called him yet. He said they had not. I told them [sic] I would have them call him shortly. After speaking with Mr. McKay I texted Commander Clem inquiring about the interview. He said he would handle it. At 1258 he responded advising the interview was scheduled for Monday (03/13) at 1500.

#6: Detective Sergeant Joe Santoy, #7: Detective Kris Safranek, and #8: Detective Sam Grant

March 13, 2023

On March 13, Mayor McKay met with Commander Clem and three more people from Kennewick Police Department: Detective Sergeant Joe Santoy, Detective Kris Safranek, and Detective Sam Grant. 

Afterward, Guerrero spoke to his staff regarding the interview. “I was out of town on vacation,” Guerrero said. “They briefed me on the interview. They also again said McKay was told to discontinue going to these establishments. On the same date at about 1543, I called and updated the City Manager.”

#9: Benton County Prosecutor Eric Eisinger and #10: Benton County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Laurel Holland

March 23, 2023

Ten days later, Guerrero advised Benton County Prosecutor Eric Eisinger about what was happening with Mayor McKay at a regional Special Investigations Unit meeting.

Guerrero also notes: “During the week of March 20th, Commander Clem advised Detectives were coordinating a meeting with Benton County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Laurel Holland.”

On March 28 at a Kennewick City Council Workshop, Mayor McKay told Guerrero that he had found another location. Guerrero wrote: 

I told [McKay] I knew our detectives were meeting with the PA’s Office and our City Attorney’s Office was working on changing the KMC [Kennewick Municipal Code] to address the massage parlors. I again told Mayor McKay it was in his best interest to discontinue going and to let us work on the problem.

Two days after that, Prosecuting Attorney Eisinger called Guerrero to say that he had received a text from Mayor McKay and had also spoken to him on the phone. Eisinger told Guerrero he had a conflict of interest (his relationship with McKay) and would not want his office involved in the investigation. 

Eisinger told Guerrero that Laurel Holland would be meeting with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and would recommend the case to them. 

This did not happen. The U.S. Attorney was never referred the case. 

Eisinger also told KPD not to discuss McKay with his office (Benton County) because of the conflict.

On April 4, City Manager Mosely made some notes about the relationship between McKay and Eisinger: 

During Council meeting, Mayor McKay brings up that he supported Eric Eisinger because he said he would not prosecute you if you had to do something to protect yourself, your family or your business. As long as you do it within the law, Eric said he would not prosecute. Bill further stated he already had to do that at his business and when you state you have a gun, the Police Department shows up quickly.

#11: Mayor Gretl Crawford

April 25, 2023

Gretl Crawford was appointed by the council to be the new Mayor of Kennewick in January 2024. Crawford had known of McKay’s ‘expertise’ regarding massage parlors since April 2023.

According to notes from then-City Manager Mosley:

Prior to the Council workshop, Bill was supposed to be gone to Amsterdam but showed up just before Gretl did.  Apparently, his wife left to help his daughter and granddaughter get to Amsterdam and took Bill’s passport and therefore Bill couldn’t go. Bill asked if we were going to do some code changes that would put some pressure on illegitimate massage parlors and I said yes we were working on it. He said we needed to do it right away, and then proceeded to tell Gretl and me about the massage parlors, and happy endings.
Gretl mentioned she was aware of two businesses on Clearwater that looked sketchy and the Mayor said there are 20 businesses on Clearwater; he said he went to one business — walked in, asked how much, she was in a robe, went back and came back in front,  opened her robe, took his hand and put it on her breast and said to come back with her; I said I was aware there are businesses and I wouldn’t step foot in those businesses; Gretl said she would suggest he shouldn’t be talking about this; we talked about this being human trafficking; he said he walks in and asks [about] “Happy Endings” — One massage place that he is still going to does only massages and does a good massage.

A week earlier, on April 18, the Kennewick City Council had voted to amend Ordinance 6019 regarding council ethics. The policy states in part: “Ethics complaints must be initiated within 45 days of the complainant becoming aware of a potential ethics violation by a sitting elected official.”

Gretl Crawford DID NOT file an ethics violation in April despite McKay’s statements. Crawford could have asked the City Manager what McKay was referring to or opened an ethics investigation at this time.

Chuck Torelli, Mayor pro tem for Kennewick, said he was with Crawford and Trumbo in November when they were shown the Kennewick Police Department’s interview with McKay recorded on March 13. Torelli said that Crawford was disgusted by the video and the way McKay spoke about the sex-trafficked victims. He said he does not believe she knew any details of what McKay was doing before this. 

After the council watched the video, Torelli drafted ethics charges. He said that they decided to have Crawford and Trumbo talk to McKay about resigning. 

According to Evelyn Lusignan, the City of Kennewick Public Relations & Government Affairs Director related a timeline showing that the City Manager withheld from informing the council until after the Kennewick Police Department notified her that the video, transcript, and interview notes no longer had an intelligence or investigative purpose. Council members Crawford and Trumbo did meet with McKay to begin an ethics complaint on November 3. 

A source who does not want to be named said that in the course of the investigation, Kennewick police were in a massage parlor suspected of sex trafficking and discovered one of the names on the sign-in sheet was William “Bill” McKay. The sign-in sheet was dated September 30, 2023. We have requested this via a Public Information Request with the Kennewick Police Department.

On November 1 and 2, the Kennewick City Council was shown the video in which McKay admitted to receiving sexual services for money. 

From City Manager Mosley’s notes:

November 3, 2023
Mayor Pro‐Tem Crawford and Councilmember Trumbo met with Mayor McKay  as the first step in the ethics complaint process.
November 6, 2023
Councilmember Trumbo, Mayor Pro‐Tem Crawford, Lisa Beaton, and I met after  John Trumbo learned that Bill had hired an attorney, Randy Jamison, over the  weekend and did not intend to resign.

Friendly Advice

On November 8, 2023, after Mayor McKay resigned, retired Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller sent an email to Eric Eisinger regarding McKay. Miller directly asked Eisinger if he had referred out the McKay case. Miller asked for records of any referrals with Bill McKay as the subject. 

Eisinger replied later that day that he hadn’t referred out the case as he had a conflict. Eisinger stated, “The matter was referred by KPD to the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Kennewick City Attorney’s office.”

November 9th, Andy Miller replied with unsolicited advice. He suggested to Eisinger that he should have had the U.S. Attorney and City Attorney appoint a Special Prosecutor. Miller wrote: 

There are problems with those two referrals. The City Attorney cannot file felony charges. Also, I think the Kennewick City Attorney has a stronger conflict. The U.S. Attorney cannot file state charges, and from my experience, there are many felonies under Washington state law that are not felonies under Federal law. In addition, the DOJ has charging standards/decline criteria that often preclude them from charging cases, even if there is a violation of federal law…. The unintended result of asking law enforcement to not refer a case to your office is to protect McKay from possible state felony charges. Appointing a Special Prosecutor from another county would avoid that unintended result.

Eisinger quickly replied to Miller’s email, saying that he had spoken to a “number of key people” in the Prosecutor's office and he was confident that they had handled the matter appropriately. He then stated that he would not discuss the matter further with Miller and was taking a few days off after a hard eight-day trial. 

Miller's reply was just two lines: 

I tried many cases that were longer than eight days; I never needed to take a couple of days off.
I’m not sure how precluding a potential review of state felony charges for a friend is appropriate, but it’s your decision.

Eisinger replied ten minutes later with the following message:

Let me put this very plainly. I took no action to preclude any potential charges against Bill McKay. As soon as I became aware of the issue, I disclosed it to a number of people within my office to ensure it was handled appropriately. It is because of your baseless accusation that I am very grateful I took these steps. It is all documented and you are welcome to request it by public record request.

Eisinger again said he was finished discussing this with Miller. 

Within fifteen minutes, Miller responded a final time: 

I don’t understand why you do not want a fellow Prosecutor to review this case. I don’t see the harm in handling this case like every other case has been handled in 36 years — or like every other Prosecutor’s Office handles situations like this. 
And maybe I’m missing something… if McKay committed a state felony, and that is a big if, and the U.S. Attorney does not charge — is there any path forward for filing under your action?

On November 9th, an article was published in the Tri-City Herald regarding Bill McKay admitting that he had visited massage parlors for sexual reasons. 

Miller once again wrote to Eisinger and asked him directly on Monday, November 13, to refer the case out to a Special Prosecutor. Miller wrote:

I read your comments in the Herald. A couple of observations:
It appears that you suggest that the Prosecutor’s Office has no ability to file a gross misdemeanor charge in this situation. That wouldn’t be correct would it? 
I have a great deal of respect for Lisa Beaton, but it is unclear to me that she actually made a charging decision? She was in an impossible position if she was asked to — she would have been asked to decide whether to bring charges against her boss. The conflict issue continues even after McKay’s resignation. You appointing a Special Prosecutor would remove that conflict. If the City Attorney has referred the case to an independent city prosecutor that might resolve that issue.
I also understand that the US Attorney’s Office has clarified its role. It never received a referral or case file on this case and did not make a decision. On the other hand, I understand that Laurel did email KPD suggesting follow up investigation steps relevant to a felony investigation. If that is correct, it would appear that exploration of that ended with your withdrawal of Prosecutor involvement without appointing a Special Prosecutor. This would be another reason to appoint a Special Prosecutor.
 I understand that you are in a challenging situation but I do not believe that this is going away. Faith in the criminal Justice system is important and many in the community are concerned about their perception that McKay is escaping criminal prosecution because of his campaign contributions etc. McKay may very well be innocent, not charging him may be appropriate—but it does not appear that an independent prosecutor has reviewed this case. You can correct that by following WAPA practice.
I also think that you appointing a Prosecutor is preferable to involvement by the Governor and the Attorney General.

Eisinger replied later the same evening with a short, one-paragraph reply. 

I am writing to let you know that I spoke with Russ Brown this afternoon. Mary Robnett from Pierce County has agreed to take this case as a special prosecutor. Although the case was never referred to my office I agree that it would be best to have a special prosecutor appointed who can make an independent charging decision. You suggested that I contact Mary Robnett in your email this morning and thankfully she has agreed to take the case. Once we make the appointment and facilitate connecting KPD with the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office we will have no involvement. If there are further questions I can address please let me know.

On November 15, the case was referred to Pierce County for review. A letter to Eric Eisinger, dated December 20, from Prosecutor Mary Robnett reads in part:

“We have completed a review of the conflict referral on Mr. Bill McKay. We have reviewed all the documents including the police reports, correspondence, recordings, notes, and other attachments. Additionally, I received a phone call briefing from Kennewick Police Department Commander Clem and was able to ask questions. We are declining to file criminal charges against Mr. McKay. 
Patronizing a prostitute is a misdemeanor. Mr. McKay admitted paying for massage, but denied knowing that sexual conduct would be involved. Patronizing a prostitute (RCW 9A.88. l 10) requires payment of a fee pursuant to an understanding that in return the person will engage in sexual conduct with him or that the suspect specifically solicits or requests another person to engage in sexual conduct with him or her in return for a fee. Mr. McKay denied knowing that sexual conduct would be involved in these encounters, and with no cooperative victims or witnesses, there is no evidence to the contrary. The task force detectives made numerous contacts at the various businesses identified by Mr. McKay. The detectives were not able to obtain any video, records, or witness accounts to corroborate Mr. McKay’s report. 
Although he admitted to criminal conduct, we are declining to file charges against Mr. McKay based on the long-standing doctrine of corpus delecti. “In Washington, a confession, standing alone, is insufficient to establish the corpus delicti of a crime.” State v. Smith, 115 Wash. 2d 775, 780- 81, 801 P.2d 975, 979 (1990). The “corpus delicti rule” is described as follows: 
The confession of a person charged with the commission of a crime is not sufficient to establish the corpus delicti, but if there is independent proof thereof, such confession may then be considered in connection therewith and the corpus delicti established by a combination of the independent proof and the confession. 
Id. Despite very diligent efforts, the investigators and detectives have not been able to establish independent evidence of the crimes. The crime victims and/or witnesses are not willing to cooperate with the investigation. The detectives have been unable to locate records, recordings, or any other evidence to corroborate Mr. McKay’s confession. Accordingly, we are declining to file criminal charges against him at this time.”

The Kennewick Police Department closed the case in October. The Columbia River Task Force raids have forced the closures of numerous massage parlors with workers moved from the locations where they were working. Tips led to the closures of numerous businesses and Kennewick City Council passed new codes (with input from Mayor McKay) to crack down on massage parlors. 

According to a source close to the City of Kennewick, three women were helped by Mirror Ministries from massage parlors in Kennewick. These women were afraid of being deported and charged with crimes, and are facing a long recovery from the horrors of human trafficking. Mirror Ministries has declined to comment. 

As of January 5, the Tri-City Herald reported that the owner of four Kennewick massage businesses had his massage therapy license indefinitely suspended after he was charged with leading organized crime, money laundering, and promoting prostitution. There were a total of six massage parlors closed last year in Kennewick.

A lifelong resident of Eastern Washington, Dori enjoys the outdoors, her family, and making good trouble. She has worked for many years in broadcasting and reporting and believes in the value of the 4th estate. She is a true community advocate that loves Washington.