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Eye On Olympia

Trouble in the Senate Republican camp…

A simmering dispute over whether a state Senate staffer improperly snooped in colleagues’ emails has turned into a bitter staredown between Senate Majority Leader Jim West, R-Spokane, and Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn.
Last week, the Senate suspended new Roach legislative assistant Kelly Hinton as part of an investigation into improperly accessed personal emails.
Roach has been in the spotlight since last week due to allegations — anonymously emailed to reporters and vehemently denied by Roach — that she pointed a gun at a former aide and campaign worker last year.
Roach said she turned over the emails Hinton discovered to the Senate clerk, expecting an investigation of the senders. Instead, Hinton was suspended.
“I though there would be an investigation into the abuse of state computers,” Roach told the News-Tribune of Tacoma. “Instead, I’ve been intimidated and bullied and threatened by caucus leader Jim West. This is just a depraved, power-hungry jerk.”
West’s response: “An emotional outburst on the part of the senator,” he said. “I’m not going to engage in any way, shape or form.”
On Monday, Roach announced that she had unilaterally re-hired Hinton. On Monday night, West — the Senate’s top Republican — handed Roach a letter saying that she can’t do that.
“Until such time as this investigation is resolved, Mr. Hinton will remain on suspension,” West wrote.
Stay tuned…

West and Roach have both raised eyebrows with volatile outbursts in the past. In 1998, West left a phone threat on the voice mail of Building Industry Association of Washington lobbyist Tom McCabe, leading to a three-month investigation but no criminal prosecution. The same year, Roach rose from her desk on the Senate floor to rail against someone who had moved flowers from her desk.
Both of these incidents were captured on tape, and Tenino political consultant and one-time legislative staffer Mike Sando has posted both — set to appropriate music — on his Web site.
To hear West’s phone threat, go to this link and click on the photo.
To hear Roach’s flowers speech, go to this link and click on the photo. “I couldn’t help myself,” said Sando. “With those two fish in that pond, I knew they’d go at it at some point.”

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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