Wife of arrested Granite Falls mayor: 'He didn't do anything wrong'

SEATTLE -- Haroon Saleem could have avoided appearing in court on Tuesday. But he didn't.

He didn't hide his face in court or try to avoid news cameras when he was released from jail.

His behavior appeared to reinforce his wife's claims: "I'm telling you right now that he didn't do anything wrong. He's just a protective dad just like other dads," said Bushra Haroon.

As the mayor of Granite Falls, Saleem promised to bring stability and respectability to the small town. But according to court documents, he threatened to kill his adult niece and assault his nephew. He was arrested at Sea-Tac Airport on Monday night for investigation of domestic violence.

To hear his wife and 13-year-old daughter tell it, the blowup was the result of a long-standing family feud. They say police arrested the wrong person.

"He was protecting me because he's like, 'There's no way anybody's going to treat my daughter like that,'" said daughter Nida Haroon.

The mayor's daughter says the problem began when she was in Los Angeles with her cousins, and escalated when her dad picked her up at the airport.

"My dad was trying, was saying, 'No, you're not going to threaten my daughter to beat the crap out of her,"' said Nida Haroon.

Both the mayor's wife and his daughter say it was the girl's adult cousin who pushed Saleem. The mayor's brother, who witnessed the incident, says Saleem was pushed twice.

But no matter how you spin it, the news is a bombshell for the small town of Granite Falls that has been hit hard by the recession and a string of bad publicity.

"The economy's so bad. We're working hard to build ... the city's reputation. And then to have something like this happen is just awful," said Vervia Gabriel, editing manager of The Mountain Loop exPress.

In the past two years, Granite Falls has seen a former police chief sent to prison for embezzlement, another chief investigated for allegedly mishandling evidence and a former mayor arrested during a drug sweep.

Saleem was supposed to put Granite Falls back on track.

"And we thought Mayor Saleem was doing a pretty good job," said Gabriel. "And so this is just, it's just tragic."