'Homeless sex offenders have the ability to roam the building'

SEATTLE -- You'll find surveillance cameras, marble walls, even auction notices at the entrance to the King County Administration Building.

What you won't find: metal detectors, armed security, and more - and that, Tracey Thompson says, is the problem.

"Homeless sex offenders have the ability to roam the building. The bathrooms are not secure. The stairwells, the hallways it's raised a lot of concerns for our members who work inside," said Thompson, secretary-treasurer with Teamsters Local 117. "There's no screening. There are no special security measures."

Homeless sex offenders now use the county administration building for their weekly check-in after the location was moved on June 10, said King County Sheriff John Urquhart. His office monitors the check-in program and says the old location - at the King County Courthouse - became too much of a bottleneck with the high volume of people using the courthouse entrances daily.

"We are so busy over there. From a business decision, it just didn't work out," Urquhart said. "If we were worried - if we thought there were any security concerns whatsoever - we would not have made this move."

About 1,400 employees work at the county administration building, said Cameron Satterfield, with the county department of executive services. There are officers that patrol the building, but they are unarmed, he added. By contrast, each entrance to the county courthouse is manned by armed deputies and metal detectors.

"There are families who are in (the administration) building. There are children, there are parents. The whole public is in that building taking care of public business and it's very concerning that there's a public safety issue as well," Thompson said.

"We've never had a problem (in the courthouse with security)," Urquhart continued. "Courthouses are high emotion. It's not the homeless sex offenders coming or going that cause the security concerns, it's the other people."

Thompson said the hundreds of union members who work at the Administration Building were first made aware after the move - and not beforehand. Employees were invited to two meetings this week to discuss their concerns, Urquhart added.

Moving the check-in location has cut down wait times from as long as 60 minutes to as fast as three minutes, the sheriff said.

"I understand (the concerns)," he added, "but these are people that have already been convicted, who've already served their time, and are trying to do the right thing. They're required to check in and they're checking in."

"I understand that this program needs to be somewhere," countered Thompson, "but if it's going to be in the administrative building there needs to be more measures taken."