Washington state Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson during a 2014 event in Olympia. The state Senate on Friday rejected her appointment, immediately ousting her.

Washington state Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson during a 2014 event in Olympia. The state Senate on Friday rejected her appointment, immediately ousting her.

Governor assails state Senate for firing transportation chief

  • By Jerry Cornfield Herald Writer
  • Monday, February 8, 2016 2:30pm
  • Local News

OLYMPIA — An angry Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday blasted Republican senators for ousting Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, calling it a “scurrilous, underhanded and dishonest” political campaign of which they should be ashamed.

“This was obviously a gross abuse of the confirmation process and was built on a totally false narrative,” Inslee said in his first public comments since Friday’s vote to fire Peterson. “The Senate Republicans are out of control at this moment.”

Twenty-four Republicans and one Democrat who caucuses with them voted Friday to not confirm Peterson’s appointment to the job, which she held for three years. Deputy Secretary Roger Millar is now running the agency.

During Monday’s news conference, Inslee, who has dueled with Republican senators throughout his first term, called out several by name for “sitting on their hands” and allowing the “decapitation” of the head of one of the state’s most high-profile agencies.

For example, he hammered Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, the leader of the Senate Transportation Committee, for publicly praising Peterson’s leadership on Jan. 13, only to vote against her last Friday.

“It was the truth on Jan. 13 … and it was the truth last Friday,” Inslee said.

And he recalled how Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, thanked Peterson for her work in getting Highway 530 reopened following the deadly Oso mudslide of 2014.

“Not a really good way to say thank you, Sen. Pearson,” Inslee said.

Republicans said they wanted to bring accountability to state government in the wake of ongoing problems with I-405 express toll lanes and Highway 99 tunneling under downtown Seattle. They’ve denied that election-year politics played a role. Inslee and Democratic lawmakers insist politics is the only reason they fired Peterson.

On Saturday, Secretary of Corrections Dan Pacholke announced his resignation. He did not indicate if Peterson’s firing influenced his decision, but Pacholke, too, had not yet been confirmed by the Senate.

The department is the object of two investigations into the miscalculation of prison sentences, which led to the mistaken early release of hundreds of inmates since 2002.

Inslee launched one probe, and the Senate Law and Justice Committee began its own.

Pacholke said in an email to Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, the committee chairman, that he hoped his resignation would satisfy the “need for blood” and end GOP senators’ “shaming and blaming” of agency workers for the mistakes.

Overall, fewer than half of Inslee’s current executive cabinet has been confirmed.

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