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Lowry Investigator Suffers A Fatal Flaw

Normally, Seattle attorney Mary Alice Theiler would be an ideal investigator of sexual harassment allegations against Washington Gov. Mike Lowry.

The credentials of the former King County Bar Association president are sterling.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Durham and attorneys who handle sexual harassment cases say she’s top-notch, too.

But Theiler has a fatal flaw: She has contributed about $100 to Lowry’s campaign fund and can’t be considered impartial.

Lowry needs the favorable findings of a truly independent investigator to dispel this dark cloud.

Washington state law provides no mechanism for appointing a special prosecutor, but Democrat Lowry still has several options. He can seek a grand jury investigation, ask a neutral third party such as Durham to name someone or agree with his alleged victim’s lawyer on a mutually acceptable party.

Although Lowry hasn’t been charged, the allegations against him are serious.

Susan Albright, formerly an outspoken Lowry advocate, says in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act that she left her $48,000-a-year job as a press aide in November because of “very clear and persistent unacceptable behavior by the governor toward me.”

Her allegations of sexual impropriety aren’t the first leveled at Lowry.

Last March, a Washington State Patrol fingerprint technician said Lowry had rubbed against her in a sexual way, but an investigation by the state attorney general’s office failed to substantiate the claim.

Attorney General Christine Gregoire wisely has refused to investigate the latest allegations, citing a potential conflict of interest. Her office provides legal advice to Lowry and may be called upon to defend him.

Northwesterners have learned to take allegations about sexual harassment seriously.

Sexual missteps helped end the political careers of Democratic U.S. Sen. Brock Adams of Washington and Democratic U.S. Rep. Larry LaRocco of Idaho. In addition, harassment charges have damaged the reputation of U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore.

Lowry must take steps to restore public confidence in his integrity.

Hiring a compromised investigator doesn’t do the trick.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board