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Department of Licensing investigates Bill Allison
Though Maple Valley Mayor Bill Allison was not charged with inappropriate communication with an underage female, his future as a driving school instructor remains in question as allegations against him are being investigated by the Washington State Department of Licensing.
Allison, who’s Linkedin profile previously listed him as founder of the I-5 Driving School in Maple Valley, no longer works at I-5, according to principal owner and founder of the school, Ryan Ryals. Ryals declined to go into further detail on the matter. He previously told The Reporter that Allison was on administrative leave while the allegations were being investigated.
Multiple messages to Allison seeking comment were not returned.
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office declined to bring a case of communication with a minor for immoral purposes against Allison, 41, on March 19 because of “legally insufficient” evidence. However, in reviewing the allegations from one of Allison’s 17-year-old driver’s education students, a deputy prosecutor wrote that Allison’s conduct “was certainly inappropriate and concerning given his access to minors and the position of authority he possesses as a driving instructor.”
Christine Anthony, spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Licensing, said the department has received a complaint against Allison and that there is an open investigation. She said the investigation would continue even if Allison no longer works for the school.
“We still move forward,” she said. “Even if he doesn’t work there he still has a license to be an instructor. If the allegations are proven to be true, we wouldn’t want him to go to another driver’s education school.”
The Maple Valley City Council has not discussed the allegations in public session since asking Allison to step down from his position as mayor during a council retreat in mid-March. Allison refused.
Maple Valley Deputy Mayor Sean Kelly told The Reporter Tuesday, “the council will not be bringing a motion to remove Bill (Allison) as mayor due to the prosecutor’s finding.”
Ryals said that, for at least the time being, I-5 will continue to serve students in both Maple Valley and Auburn.
“For now, yes,” he said. “We haven’t made a decision on that.”
Allison, who consistently denied any inappropriate conduct to police, told The Reporter following the cleared investigation that he had directed I-5 to install security cameras into driver’s ed vehicles to ensure students have the safest possible learning experience.
Ryals said the company is still in the testing phase for adding the cameras, which would record audio and video. Ryals added that he is not aware of any other driving schools that use camera’s in training cars.
“There really is no precedent for it,” he said. “So that’s why it is maybe taking a little longer than we’d like; to make sure we have the routine down.”
Ryals said he is trying to decide the most cost effective and best way to implement such a system.
“We think it is worth it so we are going to try and do it right,” he said.
Driver’s training can occur one-on-one with the instructor or with another or multiple students observing from the backseat. Parents are encouraged to tag along on the ride, though few choose that option.
Dan Barker, owner First Time Driving Academy, which has a school in Maple Valley, said he knew few details about Allison’s case and hasn’t noticed an uptick in his business because of the allegations, nor has he heard any complaints from parents.
“I think it’s amazing how little questions parents do ask when they register,” Barker said. “Personally, I don’t think there is enough involvement with parents.”
Barker said he has cameras that are sometimes used for training, but not to keep track of student issues.
“It can’t hurt to have cameras in the car, I’m thinking, but it’s kind of a pain in the butt,” he said.
After 15 years in business, Barker said he doesn’t feel any need to change his business practice.
“As long as you’re upfront and doing what you’re supposed to be doing there’s really not anything to change,” he said.
Barker said he felt for Allison if the allegations are not true because it is detrimental to his reputation. However, he added that it’s important for any allegations to be taken seriously.