A Spokane Valley legislator refusing to resign and possibly facing expulsion from the House said Friday he wants the chance to face his accusers and call witnesses to defend himself.
Republican Rep. Matt Shea, who has been declining most requests for interviews in the month since an independent investigation raised questions about his activities with certain far right groups, released a statement Friday challenging the report.
Although House leaders were uncertain Thursday if the Legislature would take steps to expel Shea after it convenes next week, Shea seems to be pushing them to start that process by asking for some type of hearing over the accusations in the Rampart report. He said he has “been falsely accused of being a ‘domestic terrorist’ ” by investigators who relied on anonymous sources and didn’t speak to people involved in certain incidents in the report.
“Under our Constitution, anyone accused of a crime has the right to see all the evidence against them, to face their accusers and to call witnesses to their defense,” he said in the statement that echoes some postings he’s made on social media. “Any action by the Legislature based solely on the dossier and without affording me those basic rights undermines the very pillars of our Republic.”
Shea was removed from the House Republican Caucus last month when the report was released, which means he lost his committee assignments, can’t use caucus staff and will not meet with other GOP members as a group to discuss legislation and plan strategy. Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, called for Shea to resign, but added if he won’t resign, all other sanctions are under the control of Democrats who hold the majority.
At a meeting between legislative leaders and news reporters Thursday, Speaker-designate Laurie Jinkins said she thinks Shea should be expelled if he won’t resign, but that’s something the Democratic Caucus still is considering. Expulsion also would take some Republican votes, because it requires a two-thirds majority.
“I don’t have a prediction about it,” Jinkins said. “This is a matter for the whole House to consider.”
As to Shea’s complaint about not being able to confront accusers and see evidence against him, which he also has made in online comments, Wilcox said the Valley legislator turned down repeated requests to meet with investigators.
“One of the flaws in the process currently is Rep. Shea chose not to participate in the investigation, so to that extent it’s missing information,” Wilcox said.
House leaders said they were so concerned about the allegations contained in the report that they were referring it to the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department.
“I have heard nothing from either office in the month since she did so,” Shea said in his statement. “If the speaker actually believes what she says, that I am a ‘domestic terrorist,’ she should respect the ability and proper role of prosecutors and federal law enforcement to make charging determination.”
The one time the House expelled a member it happened after he was “afforded due process and convicted of a crime,” Shea said.
That was Seattle Democrat Nelson Robinson, who was elected while in jail awaiting trial on a charges of statutory rape and convicted a month later. He also was pardoned before the session started by the governor who received evidence bringing the conviction into question, but expelled on a 93-5 vote a few days after the Legislature convened.
If the House decides to try to expel Shea, Jinkins said it would have to decide how to proceed. But she suggested he’d get a platform to defend himself even though he refused to talk to investigators.
“We’d have to set up a process,” she said. “Rep. Shea deserves another chance to be heard.”
Gov. Jay Inslee said Shea can no longer serve his constituents effectively and should resign. But he stopped short of calling on the Legislature to expel him.
“I’m listening to the legislators about what they believe the best approach is,” Inslee said in an interview on Friday. “The more bipartisan it would be the better it would be, and I’d like to not be an incendiary voice in this. I’d like to be a collegial voice with the legislators.”
Jonathan Brunt contributed to this report.
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