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Former Rep. Fagan agrees to Ethics settlement

OLYMPIA — Former Rep. Susan Fagan has agreed to settle a complaint with Legislative Ethics Board that she repeatedly violated rules for receiving public funds for personal or political expenses. 

The Pullman Republican, who resigned in April as the ethics investigation was concluding, reimbursed the state a total of $836 for expenses she illegally claimed on House expense accounts and paid the board $4,782 for the costs of investigating the complaint. In agreeing to those payments as part of a settlement to close the case, she denied some of its findings.

 "While I do not agree with the assertion in the investigative report that I engaged in a pattern of untruthfulness, as I had no intent to violate the Ethics Act, I do recognize that those reimbursements found to be incorrect were caused by me and me alone, and I accept full responsibility for my actions," she says in the stipulation.

In a statement e-mailed to reporters later in the day, she wrote that she did not give her expense accounts the attention they deserved but "at no point did I try to derive personal gain from expense reimbursements."

The investigator hired by the board said she exhibited a pattern of "general untruthfulness" in improperly claiming reimbursement for trips.

The board released a 26-page report that details a series of trips between January and September 2014 which Fagan had her assistants list for reimbursement in two accounts the House has for legislative expenses. One reimburses members for legislative expenses, including trips outside the district related to legislative business, but is capped at $5,500 a year. The other reimburses members in geographically large districts like Fagan's in southeast Washington, for trips on legislative matters that are at least 50 miles one-way within the district; it doesn't have a dollar limit.

The report lists instances in which Fagan was reimbursed for trips listed on expense accounts for meetings that did not occur or which she did not attend; for trips she claimed were legislative business but were actually personal or campaign related; or for trips she said were inside the district and long enough to be reimbursed from the unlimited account but were actually for meetings outside the district and didn't qualify for that account.

The report also shows that earlier this year before she resigned, Fagan reimbursed the House a total of $650 for eight trips she improperly claimed in 2014. She also asked the clerk's office to shift some $1,100 in expenses from one account to the other. As part of the stipulation with the Ethics Board, she agreed to another $186 in reimbursements.  (Note: An early version of this post incorrectly calculated the total reimbursements she made to the House prior to the stipulation.) 

Fagan announced in late April that she was resigning as of May 1, two days into the first special session. By delaying the resignation until the first of the month, she was eligible for health insurance coverage in May.

Mary Dye, of rural Pomeroy, was appointed to fill the position on May 8.

 


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Mary Dye named to fill 9th District House seat.

OLYMPIA — Mary Dye, longtime GOP activist from Garfield County, was chosen to fill open seat in Southeast Washington's 9th District.

Dye, 53, was named this afternoon by county commissioners to fill the seat left open a week ago after Susan Fagan of Pullman resigned amid allegations of ethics violations. State GOP Chairwoman Susan Hutchison said the appointment may have been the fastest to fill an open legislative seat in history.

Dye and her husband operate a wheat farm near Pomeroy. She is the state committeewoman for Garfield County and has been active for some two decades in GOP campaigns, Hutchison said. In 2012 she was a delegate to the Republican National Convention, where she served as co-chairwoman of the Agriculture and Environment plank for the Platform Committee. She once served on the chairwoman of former Rep. George Nethercutt's 5th Congressional District advisory committee and in the late 1990s was active in the "Save Our Dams" movement to fight any efforts to breach federal dams on the Snake River. The Dye's barn carried the movement's slogan in large white letters.

When candidate George W. Bush campaigned in Eastern Washington during the 2000 presidential campaign she and her husband shared a stage with the future president where he promised the dams would never be breached if he were elected and dared Democratic rival Al Gore to  make a similar vow.

She has a bachelor of science in plant science and crop management from the University of Idaho and served in the Peace Corps in Thailand.

Other than her election as a precinct committee officer, she  has not run for elective office, but will file next week for the seat which will be on this year's ballot because of Fagan's resignation in the middle of the term. Other Republican hopefuls who sought the seat might also file for the election, Hutchison said.

Fagan agreed to resign as of last Friday in the middle of an ongoing investigation by the Legislative Ethics Board that she padded her expense accounts by inflating mileage, sought reimbursement for trips that were listed as legislative business but were connected to her campaign, and pressured aides to falsify the accounts. She has attributed the mistakes to poor recordkeeping and denied that she sought "personal gain" from the expense accounts.

Republican precinct committee officers from around the district met Wednesday evening in Ritzville to select three nominees for the opening. Frank Latham, a former Franklin County sheriff, was their first pick, Dye their second and Patrick Guettner, a Franklin County party officer, their third.

But commissioners are not obligated to follow the rankings and at a meeting in Colfax selected Dye, who is expected to be in Olympia Monday for the remainder of the special session.

 

 

GOP activists to pick Fagan replacement nominees

Republican activists in Southeast Washington could choose Wednesday night from among as many as 10 possible candidates to nominate three replacements for former Rep. Susan Fagan. The Pullman legislator resigned last Friday amid an ethics investigation into allegedly padded expense accounts but will have state-supported health insurance for the rest of the month.

Records of expenses Fagan submitted show she was paid more than $50,000 for mileage and other travel costs, over and above her annual office expense allotment, between 2011 and 2014. The House has rules that reimburse certain travel of more than 100 miles for legislative business within a member’s district, so it is not subject to the annual cap of $5,500 for office expenses.

The rule is designed to help cover the costs of legislators in large rural districts, who typically travel farther than urban members to meet with constituents or attend other functions that aren’t official legislative assignments but are related to the office they hold.

“Because she’s in Eastern Washington, those members do tend to rack up miles,” Bernard Dean, deputy chief clerk, said.

A complaint filed with the Legislative Ethics Board accuses Fagan of claiming reimbursement for non-existent events, inflating the mileage to some events so they would qualify for reimbursement, claiming reimbursement for two trips that were campaign related, and pressuring staff to make changes to her expense reports that inflated her payments.

 Efforts to reach Fagan for this story were unsuccessful. A phone number listed for her was not answered and there was no response to an e-mail. When she announced her resignation, she said she took responsibility for what she termed careless recordkeeping and not giving her reimbursement reports proper attention.

“At no point did I derive personal gain from expense reimbursements,” she said.

She resigned as of “the close of business” Friday, a day when the Legislature met only briefly in a pro forma session. Because that was May 1, state employment rules say she will not receive a salary for May but will have her health insurance and other benefits covered for the entire month, a package worth $662.

Republican precinct officers will meet Wednesday evening in Ritzville to select three nominees to send to a joint meeting of the commissioners from the six counties that are in the 9th Legislative District. The state party has been contacted by 10 people interested in the job, a GOP spokesman said.

The 9th is a strongly Republican district where GOP incumbents typically face little opposition on re-election. Fagan ran unopposed in 2012 and 2014.

There are 67 GOP precinct officers spread among the district that stretches from the Oregon border to suburban south Spokane. Under party rules, they must be present at the meeting to vote and would-be replacements must be nominated by a precinct officer to be considered.

All candidates compete for the first nomination to be sent to commissioners. If no one gets a majority on the first ballot, the candidate with the fewest votes is dropped off, and another round of voting occurs. The process repeats until one candidate gets a majority. The second and third nominees are chosen the same way.

Commissioners, who will meet Friday afternoon in Colfax, can select any of the three nominees, by a majority vote.

The seat will be on the ballot in this year’s primary and general election and candidates of both parties can file for the office starting next Monday.

Special Session Day 2: Fagan resignation letter delivered

OLYMPIA — Rep. Susan Fagan delivered a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee officially resigning her 9th District seat as of Friday.

Fagan, R-Pullman, announced her resignation Wednesday in the wake of an ongoing investigation by the Legislative Ethics Board into allegations she falsified expense reports. She said she hoped her successor could be named swiftly.

"It is important that the people of the Ninth Legislative District be fully represented during the Special Session," she wrote. 

The 30-day clock on special session started Wednesday. There might not be any important votes to take for the next few days, but eventually legislators are going to have to vote on the operating, capital and transportation budgets, plus perhaps other contentious topics where an extra vote one way or another might decide an issue.

By resigning before May 11, the first day for candidates to file for office, Fagan's seat will be part of a special election this fall. Had she waited until after May 11, her replacement wouldn't have to run until 2016.

But the process of filling the seat can be time consuming, and may take more than 11 days. So people interested in the seat, even if they don't get the appointment, can file for the office during filing week. Open seats in this strongly Republican district can draw a crowd, although incumbent Republicans often run unopposed, or with only token opposition.

Fagan had no  opponent last year, or in 2012.

Because the 9th District has all or parts of six counties, the Republican State Central Committee will propose three nominees for the seat. The party typically gets those nominees from Republican precinct officers in the district, and submits the list to the county commissioners of the six counties, who will have 60 days from tomorrow to meet and try to get a majority to agree on one of the three. 

If the commissioners can't agree after 60 days, Inslee makes the appointment from the list within the next 30. Odds are that won't happen because Republicans are not likely to let a Democratic governor make the choice.

WaLeg: Rep. Fagan faces ethics charges, will resign

OLYMPIA — Rep. Susan Fagan is facing ethics violations that House officials have deemed "extremely serious" and will resign on Friday.

Fagan, a Pullman Republican, is accused of inflating mileage reports to increase reimbursements she received from the state, using state resources for campaigning, and pressuring staff to change expense reports so she would receive more money.

In a prepared statement released Wednesday evening, Fagan said she was resigning "with a sad heart". She said the problems with here expense accounts were a result of "careless record keeping (that) begin and end with me" and that she has reimbursed the state for records that were "problematic."

"I should have been more precise with my records, and I did not give my reimbursement reports the respect and attention they deserve. That is my fault," she wrote. "At no point did I try to derive personal gain from expense reimbursements."

House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen called the allegations "a serious breach of the public trust" that warranted a thorough review by the Ethics Board. Fagan's decision to resign "is the appropriate course of action and in the best interest of taxpayers," he said.

House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, said the discrepancies in Fagan's reimbursement forms were "more than just clerical errors". She made the right decision to resign and the board will decide what other actions are appropriate, Chopp said. 

The allegations are contained in a confidential letter that was hand-delivered to the Legislative Ethics Board in January from Barbara Baker, chief clerk of the House. It lists three major ethics violations:

* Fraud and Theft for improper use of state resources for personal gain. The letter alleges that Fagan falsified expense accounts by claiming mileage to events that were "simply made up — that is, there was no such meeting, town hall or other event." In other cases, she allegedly listed the wrong location of an event or the distance traveled. Falsified mileage reports would be important in Fagan's rural southeast district because House rules allow a member to be reimbursed above a set limit if the travel exceeds 50 miles one way or 100 miles in a day. "Effectively there is no limit to this in-district 100-mile reimbursement," the letter says.

* Improper use of state resources for political campaigns. Some of the reimbursements allegedly were made for campaign events, including two trips to a falsified event so Fagan could pick up a campaign contribution, and a trip to a county fair to work in a campaign booth. If true, she may have violated state statutes against using public resources for political campaigns, the letter says.

* Pressuring employees in an improper use of office and resources. Baker's letter says she pressured legislative assistants to change expense reports so she could inflate the payments she received. Staff reported to House officials that she changed reports they prepared "so as to perpetrate the fraud." 

One staff member was quoted in Baker's letter as saying "I am uncomfortable being left here to continue to be her scapegoat… I feel a bit like that goat on "Jurassic Park", tied up, waiting to get eaten alive."

Baker told the Ethics Board in January the House had not conducted a formal investigation, and that Fagan deserves ample opportunity to present materials or witnesses, or to offer explanations to the matters, which she had been told are serious. "While she does not agree with the allegations, she understands their significance, has cooperated with the House to date and has indicated that she will co-operate with the board should it choose to investigate, Baker wrote.

In a statement today, Baker said the discrepancies were "more than just paperwork errors."  After two meetings before the 2015 session started, Fagan was advised to resign her position and pay back an amount that House accountants determined had been overpaid to her. She denied any wrongdoing, said the problems were bookkeeping errors and agreed to reimburse the state for overpayments. 

Last week, House officials learned the preliminary investigation by the Ethics Board substantiated allegations that Fagan knowingly falsified her forms, Baker said today. She was asked to resign her seat before the special session began today; she decided to resign as of May 1 and pay back any remaining money she owes, Baker said.

Fagan is a public relations specialist who served as director of public affairs for Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories for 10 years before being elected to the House from the 9th District in 2010. She served as regional director for former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, for six years, and an aide to U.S. Sens. Steve Symms and Jim McClure from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s.

She serves on the Appropriations Committee and is the top Republican on the Education subcommittee. She also serves on the special joint committee trying to address the state Supreme Court's mandate for the Legislature to improve public schools. She ran unopposed last year and in 2012 in the strongly Republican district that stretches from the Oregon to the Spokane suburbs in the southeast corner of Washington. 

Because Fagan represents a district that contains six counties, the process to appoint a replacement may extend past the 30-day special session. Precinct committee officers in those counties will choose up to three possible replacements, and the county commissioners from all six counties will have to schedule a meeting where a single candidate is selected by a majority vote.


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Local legislators reaching out by phone

OLYMPIA — While Spokane-area legislators are spending most of their time for the next two months in Olympia,some are  are trying to keep in touch with constituents by shifting the standard "town hall meeting" from a place to a phone number.

Republican Reps. Kevin Parker and Jeff Holy from Spokane's 6th Legislative District, which has parts of south and northwest Spokane city and much of the West Plains, are having a one-hour conference at 6:30 p.m. tonight. conference. Constituents can call 1-800-759-5308 to listen and press the star key to ask a question.

The 7th Legislative District delegation, Sen. Brian Dansel and Reps. Joel Kretz and Shelly Short, will have a joint teleconference on Feb. 3. Constituents can call 1-877-229-8493 and enter  112381 when prompted.

Susan Fagan not the one slamming Inslee

OLYMPIA — Rep. Susan Fagan and Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan don't share any constituents, but both do have voters in the Spokane area.

And the Pullman legislator wants them to know that she is not the Fagan who called Gov. Jay Inslee a "lying whore" in a recent fund-raising letter.

Councilman Mike Fagan, who signed onto an appeal with initiative partners Tim Eyman and his father Jack Fagan, is coming under criticism from his council colleagues for the use of that language. (See posts below.) The governor, who is in Washington, D.C., and has a few other things to worry about like additional tanks leaking at Hanford, has declined comment.

But headlines tend to stick with last names, which is causing Rep. Susan Fagan some heartburn. She's a Republican legislator from the Palouse who is likely to disagree with Inslee on any number of issues over the course of the session, and agree with Eyman and Co., on some.

But that kind of language "would never cross her lips," an aide said.

Sunday Spin: Adventures in redistricting

OLYMPIA – Tuesday is Election Day 2011 – or what passes for one in a state that mailed out its ballots two weeks ago and will spend more than two weeks counting the returns – but it could be a key day for Election Days 2012-21.
That morning is the next meeting of the state Redistricting Commission, which is weighing two proposals to redraw congressional and legislative lines in Washington…

To read the rest of this post, go inside the blog.
  

Got something to say to your legislator? Here’s your chance

There's a break in the legislative action this weekend, so several Spokane-area legislators will be back in their home districts to hold town hall meetings.

The break is a result of the Legislature passing a major deadline for voting bills out of one chamber, and not yet reaching a key point in crafting the next biennium's budget, the state economic forecast which comes out March 17. Because of that, neither house is in session this weekend, so it's a good time for legislators to head home for a few days, and Saturday seems like a good day for town hall meetings.

Here's a list of what's scheduled for Saturday.

3rd Legislative District
Sen. Lisa Brown, Reps. Timm Ormsby and Andy Billig.
  10 a.m., Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook St.
  2 p.m., Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, 2316 W. 1st Ave.

6th Legislative District
Sen. Mike Baumgartner, Reps. Kevin Parker and John Ahern
  10:30 a.m. Northwood Middle School gymnasium, 13120 N. Pittsburg St.
Parker
  2 p.m., Education themed town hall at Northwood Middle School library, 13120 N. Pittsburg St.
Baumgartner
  5 p.m. town hall at the MAC, 2316 W. 1st Ave.

9th Legislative District
Rep. Susan Fagan

  10:30 a.m., WHMC Public Education Building, 1200 W. Fairview St., Colfax
  2 p.m., Cafe Moro, 100 E. Main St., Pullman

Area companies recognized for community service

The Association of Washington Business Tuesday recognized the volunteerism and community service efforts of 21 Washington companies, including five based in Eastern Washington.

The Spokane-area corporate winners were: Associated Industries, for its Bright Promise Scholarship program; PAML, for raising $339,527 for charities such as Shriners Hospital and the Make-a-Wish Foundation; Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Inc. of Pullman, for its work on behalf of United Way, the Corporate Angels Program, and Haitian earthquake relief; and Sterling Savings Bank, for employee incentives that generated 24,000 volunteer hours in 2009.

Also, State Rep. Susan Fagan, R-Pullman, received the Judy Coovert Award for her work on the AWB Health Care Committee.

AWB President Don Brunell said the winners sustained their charitable work during a deep recession.

“Giving back is integral to who they are and what they do. It’s part of how they do business,” he said.

PAML also received one of 10 AWB Environmental Excellence Awards for upkeep and updating of its 162-vehicle fleet, and implementation of route-mapping software. Coupled with handheld devices for couriers, PAML has reduced travel by 1.5 million miles, or 30 percent.

Fagan gets Rossi endorsement

Southeastern Washington legislative candidate Susan Fagan picked up the endorsement of the Republicans’ last two gubernatorial nominees.

OK, that was just a chance to see if you were paying attention after a three-day weekend. As anyone with a working knowledge of Washington politics knows, the same person has been the GOP’s nominee for governor for the last two elections.

Former State Sen. Dino Rossi is endorsing Fagan for that empty 9th District House seat, though.

One might wonder what impact that has, considering Rossi was unsuccessful in his two runs for governor. (Unless one wants to argue that he actually was successful in 2004 but had the election stolen from him, but the statute of limitations has kind of run on that one.)

The answer, though, is potentially a big impact. Rossi got 58 percent of the vote in the 9th District last year. And with two Republicans — Fagan and Pat Hailey — on the Nov. 3 ballot, this kind of endorsement could be significant for Republicans trying to choose between the two.

More election news: Lots — LOTS — of interest in two E. WA. House seats…

Very few legislative seats are up for election in this off-year, but there’s tremendous interest in two Eastern Washington spots in the House of Representatives.

Four people have so far filed documents with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission to run for 9th District Rep. Steve Hailey’s old seat representing the Palouse region. Retired Rep. Don Cox was pressed into service as an appointee this year after Hailey died of cancer, but Cox has so far not filed paperwork to run for re-election this fall.

Who has? Hailey’s widow, Pat Hailey; Schweitzer Engineering’s Susan Fagan, who scored an early coup getting AG Rob McKenna’s endorsement; WSU’s Darin Watkins (described as “Extremely charismatic. Looks and sounds like a politician” by Palousitics two years ago when he applied to replace departing state Rep. David Buri), and Lamont’s Arthur Swannack, who has been the president of the Washington State Sheep Producers. All are Republicans.

Just to the southeast, no fewer than 5 people are running for late Rep. Bill Grant’s seat, now help by an appointee: his daughter, Rep. Laura Grant-Herriot. Grant-Herriot, running as Laura Grant, recently filed for re-election. She’s the lone Democrat in the race so far.

Also in the running for that 16th district seat: Lawyer/former prosecutor Terry Nealey, Paco city councilman Matt Watkins, and Walla Walla’s Kevin Allen Young, who works as a manager for the state Department of Transportation. Walla Walla County Commissioner Greg Tompkins had filed to run for the seat, but got out of the race recently, citing a family member’s health. “I can’t be in two places at the same time, and right now I am needed by my family more than ever,” he said.

Lastly, Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, is so far running for re-election unopposed.

Schweitzer’s Susan Fagan raising money for House run…

Susan Fagan, whose work for Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories means she’s not a stranger in Olympia, has raised more than $20,000 in her run for the state House seat now held by Rep. Don Cox, R-Colfax. The district covers a large swath of southeastern Washington, including the Palouse and part of southern Spokane County.

“I am thankful that, given the difficult economy, people realize having an advocate in Olympia who understands agriculture and job creation is worth investing in,” Fagan said in a press release.

Fagan’s trying to tap into the district’s heavy ag vote by forming “Farmers for Fagan,” chaired by Farmington’s Bruce Nelson, a former president of the state wheat growers’ association.

Pat Hailey of Mesa, the wife of late state Rep. Steve Hailey, has also said she’ll run if Cox doesn’t in November. Cox was appointed recently to the seat after Steve Hailey died suddenly from cancer.