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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Clean up your language, 2 senators told

OLYMPIA -- Two senators from Southwest Washington were admonished to use "professional, business language" and the caucuses should help members deal with "interpersonal conflict," a special Senate committee said today.

Put in plainer language, Sen. Ann Rivers should not have called Sen. Don Benton a "piece of sh-t," and Benton should not have called Rivers "a trashy trampy-mouthed little girl," the Facilities and Operations Committee said after investigating dueling complaints that each had about the other for violating the Senate's Respectful Workplace Policy.

Documents released by the committee detail a conflict that stretches began in April, as the Legislature was wrestling with whether a major transportation package would include the Columbia River Crossing, a proposed bridge to connect Vancouver and Portland. Both Benton and Rivers, who represent Vancouver-area districts, oppose the project, but were disagreeing on some of the tactics to block it. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

For the full details, check out the original complaint and the appeal documents below 

. . .As the regular session of the 2013 Legislature was drawing to a close, the pair had a confrontation on the Senate floor and Rivers used the "s word" on Benton, loud enough for other members and some onlookers to hear. In documents filed with the committee, Rivers acknowledged using the expletive, and said she later apologized for that and a similar confrontation in a caucus meeting.

"Witnesses who observed the two members on the Senate floor stated that Senator Rivers attempted to separate herself from Senator Benton by asking him more than once to leave her alone, which he did not do," the committee report said, calling that a relevant factor that did not excuse the violations.

She later used the same language in a caucus meeting in a discussion over how much help each was getting from the communication department during the session.

Rivers told the committee that Benton had previously launched into her with a profanity laced tirade over her failure to support him for a caucus leadership position, and once accused her of "sh-tting all over" him and her constituents with a budget proviso over the bridge . "In using profanity toward me during this time, I was given the impression by Don that this was a perfectly acceptable way of communicating with him," she said

 In a later meeting with Senate leadership, Benton reportedly called Rivers a "trashy trampy-mouthed little girl". Rivers said the word trampy was particularly troublesome because it "has a connotation that borders on sexual harassment."

The Facilities and Operations Committee decided in November that both made mistakes but rejected Benton's complaint that Senate leaders were trying to retaliate  him while trying to address the conflict between the two of them. Benton appealed, contending that he'd done nothing wrong and that his complaint against Rivers was the only one with merit. This week, the committee rejected the appeal and released the documents for both the initial complaints and the appeal. 

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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