GOP senator says colleagues have tried to ruin her

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - An embattled Republican senator defended herself Thursday against fresh allegations that she mistreated staff, countering that some of her colleagues are engaged in a yearslong campaign to tarnish her good name.

Sen. Pam Roach claimed she drew the ire of former Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt after campaigning against him for the top post in the caucus several years ago. In an hourlong meeting with reporters, the Auburn lawmaker described herself as an upstanding professional who has raised successful children and devoted herself to humanitarian work.

"I am a good parent. I am a good person," Roach said. "I do more arguably - not even arguably - than anybody in this Senate. I care about people."

Roach denied that she's ever mistreated anybody and complained that the Senate process doesn't allow her to know her accusers or properly defend herself. Hewitt declined to comment, other than saying that he didn't want to rehash "old, false allegations."

Mike Hoover, a former GOP attorney in the Senate who pursued a claim against the state for having a hostile work environment, said his effort was never an attempt to persecute or embarrass anybody.

"I wanted it to be a wake-up call to the Senate that they had an ongoing problem and they needed to address it," Hoover said. "That was what I was hoping to accomplish."

Roach was sanctioned in 2010 after allegations of mistreating staff, and new documents released this week describe a verbal tirade last year in which she cursed during a budget meeting, rising out of a chair at one point and using charged language to criticize what she deemed "fat" Republican districts.

A new GOP-dominated majority in the state Senate lifted sanctions against Roach this week despite the new allegations and despite a committee reaffirming the sanctions as part of a legal settlement with Hoover four months ago. She is now chair of the Senate's government operations committee and a key lawmaker in the chamber because the coalition holds only a one-vote majority.