OLYMPIA -- A Senate committee that controls the flow of legislation could issue subpoenas later this week to the Department of Corrections as part of an inquiry into problems that led to thousands of inmates getting released before their sentences had been served.
Democratic leaders called the subpoenas a "politically motivated" diversion from more serious work on the Legislature's plate when an independent investigation is still in progress.
Republicans, however, have questioned the independence of that investigation, saying the two former federal prosecutors were appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee without consultation. A pair of Senate committees held a special joint session Monday to question department officials on systems that should have been in place to catch the problem, which originated in 2002 but wasn't noticed until 2012, and the required fix was repeatedly delayed until last November.
A subpoena for department records could be approved by the Senate Rules Committee as early as Wednesday, said Senate Minority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, conceding that Democrats likely don't have the ability to block them. The Legislature should wait for the report of the investigators, she said.
"Right now, it's being used for political purposes," Nelson said. It apparently will take the place of another potential political issue in a major election year, she contended, the possible impeachment of State Auditor Troy Kelley, who is facing federal fraud charges from activity before his 2012 election. Trial on those charges is set for March.
House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said the House is not likely to vote on a resolution to impeach Kelley, which sought to remove him for abandoning his office by taking an extended unpaid leave after charges were filed. Kelley returned to his job the day after the resolution was announced.
"There is a lot of concern about how (impeachment) would interfere with the trial," Sullivan said. The impeachment resolution is still on file but "at this point" he doesn't expect the House to vote on it.