OLYMPIA – A Republican state senator who is set to lead a committee under a new legislative coalition violated a Senate policy on treatment of staff shortly after she was allowed back into the GOP caucus last year, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press.
A new report says Sen. Pam Roach of Auburn violated the policy in March by verbally attacking a Senate Republican staffer charged with upholding sanctions against Roach that prevented her from having direct contact with staff. The report was compiled by a subcommittee created last summer solely to investigate incidents involving Roach, who was kicked out of her caucus three years ago because of accusations of mistreating staff.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Roach said she didn’t know anything about the report.
“I’m looking into it,” Roach said. She declined to comment further.
Last month, two Democrats announced they would work with Republicans under a newly formed caucus called the “majority coalition” caucus and that Democratic Sen. Rodney Tom of Medina would be the new majority leader.
Roach was named chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee under the new power structure.
Tom said he couldn’t comment on the specific allegations, but said the sanctions against Roach, which were reaffirmed under a legal settlement announced in September, would be lifted.
The 2010 sanctions say Roach’s ability to have access to more staff is contingent upon her completing a plan for counseling or training. The documents obtained by the AP note Roach “has not taken even the slightest step to address the concerns” raised in 2010 by the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee, which oversees personnel issues.
The committee’s chairwoman, Democratic Sen. Karen Fraser of Olympia, said the Dec. 17 report obtained by the AP was not the final version, and that a final report still needs to be provided to the full committee.
Democrats have a small majority in the Senate, controlling 26 of 49 seats. With the moves by Tom and Sen. Tim Sheldon of Potlatch, the new coalition holds a 25-24 advantage and plans to reconfigure that committee, allowing the sanctions against Roach to be lifted.
Roach was kicked out of her caucus in 2010.
She was allowed back in last year during a key budget vote, but is barred from having direct contact with Senate staff.
After Roach was allowed back into caucus, Mike Hoover, a senior Republican attorney for the Senate, filed a complaint in April that’s a precursor to a lawsuit, saying he was subjected to a hostile and abusive workplace because of her. Under a settlement announced in September, the Senate reaffirmed its sanctions against Roach.
The subcommittee, comprised of Fraser and Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, found that during a caucus meeting in mid-March, Roach “directed anger, blame, and personally disparaging comments” at a staff member who was in charge of upholding the no-contact directive against Roach.
The report recommended that Senate Republican leaders and members clarify staff roles “to protect staff from being attacked for doing their jobs,” and take other actions to discourage violations of the chamber’s “Respectful Workplace Policy” as well as violations of the sanctions against Roach.