By Mike Baker Associated Press
OLYMPIA — A state Senate panel removed sanctions against a Republican lawmaker Tuesday night despite a fresh allegation that she mistreated staff members in the Legislature.
The Senate Facilities and Operations Committee, altered by a new GOP-led majority in the chamber, decided in a private meeting that Sen. Pam Roach can now resume direct contact with staff. Republican Sen. Don Benton, who chairs the committee, barred two reporters from attending the meeting and declined to discuss the details of the deliberations afterward.
“The committee lifted the sanctions. That’s all I can say,” Benton said.
Democratic Sen. David Frockt said he voted against removing the sanctions, saying he didn’t feel that the terms of the restrictions had been met. He said he couldn’t discuss any other details.
The change allows Roach to serve as chair of a Senate committee focused on government operations. Roach is a key vote in a new Republican-leaning coalition in the Senate, since that caucus has only a one-vote advantage in the chamber.
Documents previously obtained by The Associated Press earlier this month concluded that Roach violated the Senate’s policy in March by verbally attacking a Senate Republican staffer charged with upholding sanctions against Roach. Those sanctions from 2010 came after an investigation determined that she had mistreated staff.
Lawmakers reaffirmed the sanctions against Roach just four months ago after the senior Republican attorney for the Senate, Mike Hoover, complained that he was subjected to a hostile and abusive workplace because of Roach. Hoover, who now works in the House, had initially sought a $1.75 million settlement, but the reaffirmed sanctions were part of the settlement.
New Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, a Democrat who has aligned himself with a largely Republican caucus, has said that Roach will act professionally and that it was time to move on.