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Chaplain charged with sexual harassment

Officials say the incident is unrelated to Pastor Rick Sacks' volunteer post with Forest Grove's public service agencies

Forest Grove police last week arrested their chaplain, Pastor Rick Sacks, on charges of sexual harassment.

The 54-year-old Forest Grove resident is accused of the 'offensive physical touching' of a 23-year-old woman in early December.

Forest Grove police are withholding the name of the victim, who is reportedly a member of Sacks' congregation at Calvary Christian Fellowship in Forest Grove.

Police Chief Glenn VanBlarcom said only that she was 'vulnerable.'

'I was very upset,' VanBlarcom said. 'I work in an arena of public trust. He was in the same arena, and that (trust) got violated, and to someone who was vulnerable. And that truly, truly upset me.'

Sacks turned himself in to Forest Grove police last Wednesday, following a nearly three-month investigation. He was charged with two counts of sexual harassment, a Class A misdemeanor.

He was booked at Washington County jail and released at 4:50 p.m. that day, having paid $100, the 10 percent security on his $1,000 bail.

He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on Monday, but Deputy District Attorney Greg Olson said Sacks did so with the intention to change his plea to guilty in April.

Olson said a plea deal was being negotiated. Sacks could receive five years of probation or 12 months in jail for each of his two charges, Olson said.

Sacks did not return a phone message left at his home earlier this week. Attempts to reach his attorney, Wendell Birkland of Portland, also were unsuccessful.

Sacks had been the chaplain for the police and fire departments in Forest Grove since February 2001. He was a volunteer who received no compensation except occasional training. His primary duties were counseling staff members and consoling people involved in traumatic situations.

Fire Chief Robert Mills called Sacks 'just a regular guy.'

'He did a good job for us, we felt,' he said. 'He seemed very sincere about what he was doing, and we never had any complaints from anybody.'

Mills said fire department staff knew in December that Sacks had been removed from his post but they didn't find out why later.

'They put a lot of trust into this guy, and then to find out he'd done something … I think they were hurt and confused,' Mills said.

Sacks had no previous criminal record, VanBlarcom said.

According to VanBlarcom, the alleged incident came to light on Dec. 11, when Sacks called the chief and asked to meet later that day. During the meeting, VanBlarcom said, Sacks broke down and cried while confessing to the crime.

He was immediately removed from his post and an investigation was launched, VanBlarcom said. The chief said the investigation included multiple interviews and 'an extensive, long-term evaluation' of the allegations.

'We had to go forward and investigate this as we would with anyone else,' he said.

Rich Jones, pastor of Calvary Chapel Worship Center in Hillsboro, accompanied Sacks when he went to the police with his story, according to VanBlarcom.

Jones confirmed that he was one of the first people to learn of the incident, and that he had spoken with a Washington County judge. On his advice, Jones said he encouraged Sacks to turn himself in to police.

'He did the right thing, as far as turning himself in,' Jones said. 'It's just a tragedy. It's very unfortunate.'