Senate panel closes abuse investigation of Sen. Roach

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - 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 additional sanctions for a Republican state senator 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 last month. 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 publicly release both reports, which are nearly identical.

The reports were compiled by a subcommittee that was created last summer solely to investigate incidents involving Roach, and which looked into three specific meetings of concern that occurred last year.

Of the three incidents, only one 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. 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."

The report called for Senate Republican leaders and members to clarify staff roles "to protect staff from being attacked for doing their jobs," and take other actions to discourage violations of the chamber's workplace policy, as well as violations of the then-in-place sanctions against Roach.

Sen. Don Benton, a Vancouver Republican who is chairman of the F&O Committee, said Tuesday night that the committee has already voted to make changes to 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 an email request seeking comment, or a message left at her office Wednesday morning.

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 in the chamber.

The final report released Wednesday also noted an incident last March where Roach got into a heated discussion with another senator where Roach was "exceptionally loud and angry, and using highly inflammatory, accusatory, hostile, personal attack language" for up to 10 minutes. The report found that Roach did not violate any policy, noting that "vigorous, even angry, debate over legislation is a recognized aspect of a legislative environment."

A third incident where a staffer overhead angry comments made by Roach at an event at a park was also found to not be a violation, with the interaction between Roach and the caucus staff member being "limited, indirect, and not initiated by either party."

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