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Police allegations on shaky ground?

A woman accused of living in the U.S. illegally said she was not issued a handgun by Sunnyside Police Chief Ed Radder.

The comment, made yesterday to the Daily Sun News by Canadian-born Taunya Harris, contradicts allegations made by former Sunnyside police sergeant Jose Trevino.

In comments to the Daily Sun News yesterday, and in a letter to Sunnyside City Manager Bob Stockwell last October, Trevino claimed Radder gave a handgun to Harris, who had expressed interest in the department's reserve program.

Trevino, who also has a wrongful termination suit pending against the city, alleges that Radder asked officers to "look the other way," in February 2005 when he gave the firearm to Harris. He claims that Sunnyside police Detective Jeff Cunningham and officer Sam Ramos were also aware of the situation.

Messages have been left with Radder, Ramos and Cunningham, none of whom have been reached for comment on the allegation.

Harris, though, said the handgun allegation is false.

"No, I was never issued a handgun by Ed Radder," she told the Daily Sun News yesterday. She confirmed that between 2004 and 2005 she was interested in joining the reserve program.

"I chose not to continue pursuing the reserve officer position," explained Harris, whose husband is a medic on the police force's SWAT team. "I felt it would create a conflict of interest within the department and at home," she added.

Harris also confirmed that she is still a Canadian citizen and has had an "alien citizen" status since 1995. Harris also said she "obtained an alien firearm license" in 2005 because of her interest in the reserve program. She said the license is valid through 2010.

Harris said the confusion about her receiving a firearm may have been due to the fact her husband received one when he joined the SWAT team.

In a second allegation, Trevino contends that Deputy Chief Phil Schenck "used his authority as a (then) sergeant to take advantage" of a relationship with a high school girl. Trevino alleges that Schenck met the girl while she was working on a student project related to a police career and had a sexual relationship with her.

Trevino told the Daily Sun News he does not know the whereabouts of the teen with whom he says Schenck had the inappropriate sexual relationship.

He said he learned of the alleged relationship from a closed door meeting between Schenck and sergeants (including Trevino) where Schenck supposedly disclosed concerns regarding the parents of the girl learning about the relationship.

Trevino said the reason it took so long to submit the two allegations is because he had to research the proper procedures and sought advice from federal agencies. He adds that he did not bring up the allegations while employed with the city "because at the time I was fearful of retaliation had I disclosed any of this information."

This morning (Thursday) Trevino said the relationship involved a student at Sunnyside Christian High School, not Sunnyside High School as previously reported. Trevino claims that Schenck's relationship with the girl happened sometime between 1998 and 1999 while she was conducting a student project with the police department.

Sunnyside Christian High School Principal Dean Wagenaar confirmed that the school has a "job shadowing" program in which juniors and seniors each spring follow community members on the job.

Wagenaar said he was aware of only one female student who worked with the Sunnyside Police Department on a job shadow. That student Wagenaar referenced would not have been a high school junior or senior during the 1998-99 time frame Trevino alleges.

Wagenaar did note that it's possible other female students could have organized a job shadow with the police department, since it's each student's responsibility to arrange the project. He also said it's "doubtful" the school would still have student project records on file from 1998-99.

When contacted again for comment yesterday, Schenck reiterated that he could not speak to the allegations brought by Trevino because of the pending wrongful termination lawsuit.

"I'd like to comment, but I can't," Schenck said.

The State Patrol is investigating the accusations made against Schenck and Radder.

To that end, City Attorney Mark Kunkler noted, "We'd just like to wait for the decision before any of us make comment."

A decision on the allegations, and comment, may be available sooner rather than later.

Kunkler noted, "We expect a final decision from the reviewing agency (the State Patrol) soon."

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