SEATTLE — An Oregon child-welfare investigator concluded that Ed Murray sexually abused his foster son in the early 1980s, leading state officials to assert that "under no circumstances should Mr. Murray be certified" as a foster parent in the future, according to public records obtained by The Seattle Times.
The investigation by Oregon Child Protective Services of Jeff Simpson's allegations determined them to be valid — meaning the agency believed that Murray, who is now mayor of Seattle, sexually abused Simpson, the records show.
"In the professional judgement of this caseworker who has interviewed numerous children of all ages and of all levels of emotional disturbance regarding sexual abuse, Jeff Simpson has been sexually abused by … Edward Murray," CPS caseworker Judy Butler wrote in the May 1984 assessment.
Murray last week repeated in an interview that he never abused Simpson, and he noted that prosecutors decided decades ago not to charge him.
Still, the newly disclosed records reveal that a Multnomah County, Ore., prosecutor withdrew a criminal case against Murray because of Simpson's troubled personality, not because she thought he was lying.
"It was Jeff's emotional instability, history of manipulative behavior and the fact that he has again run away and made himself unavailable that forced my decision," Deputy District Attorney Mary Tomlinson wrote.
"We could not be sure of meeting the high burden of proof in a criminal case _ of proof beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty. However, this in no way means that the District Attorney's Office has decided Jeff's allegations are not true."
Unlike a criminal case, CPS child-abuse investigations determine whether "reasonable cause" exists — a lower standard of proof than for criminal cases, but still meaning the abuse likely occurred.
The newly obtained records, previously thought destroyed, provide the clearest picture yet of the investigation of Murray, who was then a paralegal who had worked as a counselor to Simpson and other troubled children.
The documents, released to The Seattle Times this month by Oregon's Department of Human Services, also contradict public statements in recent months by Murray and his lawyer contending that investigators had debunked Simpson's allegations at the time as false.
Murray said he had never been told of the CPS finding and would have appealed had he known. The Seattle Times provided him copies of the newly released investigative records Tuesday.
In an interview Thursday, Murray and his Portland attorney, Katherine Heekin, questioned why Oregon officials kept the records without informing Murray. They also disputed the importance of the documents.
"Other than the salacious nature of it, I don't see what the story is," Murray said. "The system vindicated me. They withdrew the case."
Murray said his previous comments that Simpson's allegations had been discredited were based on his lawyer's impressions about the decision to drop the case. He said he learned from the documents that the case was withdrawn before a grand jury could vote whether to indict him.
"I feel even more strongly that my statement was correct because (the criminal case) was withdrawn," Murray added. "That is unusual because we all know people get indicted and they get indicted pretty easily. As I said, one of the attorneys told me you can get a ham sandwich indicted in the grand jury."
Murray pointed to statements his attorneys collected and submitted to investigators from people who had known him or Simpson. They included other foster parents who described the youth as sometimes violent and impossibly difficult to care for.
Oregon officials previously said records of the investigation had been purged, but found them in April with a newer computer-tracking system. In releasing the typically private information to The Times, that state cited, in part, a provision of public-records law that allows disclosure "to protect children from abuse and neglect."
The finding by CPS supporting Simpson — who had been abandoned as an infant and later lived under Murray's care for nearly a year and a half as a teenager –prompted Oregon child-welfare officials to decide that Murray should never again be a foster parent, a June 1984 report shows. The abuse finding — the result of a required administrative investigation — remains in effect and could still prevent him from being a foster parent in Oregon, officials said.
Murray, 62, a longtime Democratic state lawmaker and gay civil-rights leader who was elected Seattle mayor in 2013, has attacked the credibility of Simpson and other men who say he sexual abused them decades ago. Murray has suggested the claims are politically motivated.
The scandal led Murray to drop his re-election campaign. The mayor has said he'll serve out his term, which ends this year.
Simpson, 49, who abandoned an effort to sue Murray in 2008 because of statute-of- limitations issues, was happy when reporters told him last week that the CPS report backed his claims.
"Wow, wow. Thank you, Jesus," he said.
Simpson said he and his attorney had tried to find such documents, but were told none existed.
The Times first published details about Simpson's claims in April when a Kent man, Delvonn Heckard, made similar accusations against Murray in a sexual-abuse lawsuit. Heckard withdrew his lawsuit in June, saying he intends to refile after Murray leaves office.