Sen. Roach off hook for policy violation after sanctions lifted

The Associated PressFebruary 14, 2013 

A final report released Wednesday by the Senate calls for an update to the chamber’s policy on treatment of staff but results in no discipline or new sanctions for a Republican legislator found to have violated that policy shortly after being allowed back into the GOP caucus last year.

The report was released along with a draft report that was written in December and was the subject of an internal investigation because it was leaked to The Associated Press. The final report is dated Jan. 15, the day before the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee lifted all sanctions against Sen. Pam Roach of Auburn.

The same committee on Tuesday night unanimously approved closing both the leak investigation and the investigation into Roach’s behavior. It also voted to release both reports, which are nearly identical.

The reports were compiled by a subcommittee that was created last summer to investigate incidents involving Roach. It looked into three incidents that occurred last year.

Only one of the three had a finding that Roach violated the chamber’s “respectful workplace” policy, last March, by verbally attacking a Senate Republican staffer charged with upholding sanctions against Roach that had prevented her from having direct contact with staff.

Those 2010 sanctions came after an investigation determined that she had mistreated staff members. They were reaffirmed in September as part of a legal settlement concerning a senior Republican attorney.

In its findings on that March incident, the subcommittee concluded that Roach violated the chamber’s policy, “both its prohibition against derogatory and demeaning treatment as well as its prohibition against retaliatory actions.”

Sen. Don Benton, a Vancouver Republican who is chairman of the Facilities and Operations Committee, said Tuesday night that the committee has already voted to change the policy to reflect the concerns of the report. Benton said that Roach had appealed the report in writing, but her written appeal would not be released publicly. Roach did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

The Senate Facilities and Operations Committee, altered this year by a new GOP-majority coalition in the chamber, decided last month to lift the sanctions against Roach, allowing her to resume direct contact with staff. The change allowed Roach to chair a Senate committee focused on government operations. Roach is a key vote in the new Senate coalition, since that caucus has only a one-vote advantage.

The final report released Wednesday also noted an incident last March in which Roach got into a heated discussion with another senator.

In the third incident, a staff member overhead angry comments made by Roach at an event at a park. It also was found to not be a violation, because the interaction between Roach and the caucus staff member was “limited, indirect and not initiated by either party.”

Another document obtained by the AP last month that was not released Wednesday shows the state has spent more than $125,000 on investigations and defenses of cases involving Roach.

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