Sen. Roach written up for “abusive behavior”

Watch the public hearing on SB 5375 here.

Read the letter Owen sent to Roach above or here.

Read the original complaint written by President and CEO of Washington Food Industry Association Jan Gee above or here.

State Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, is about two months into her seventh term and she has already been admonished for abusive and inappropriate behavior by  Lt. Gov. Brad Owen who serves as president of the Senate.

Owen sent a letter to Roach Feb. 13 in response to a complaint filed against the 31st District senator concerning her behavior as chair of the Governmental Operations and Security Committee.

Owen summarized the complaint against Roach by stating in the letter, “You drew a clear connection between the association’s support of your recent opponent (Cathy Dahlquist) and your negative view of the legislation (Senate Bill 5375).”

Owen also wrote, “Your abusive behavior must stop. Further violations will not be tolerated. We will continue to review and investigate your actions as we view necessary.”

Roach defended her actions claiming she is the most unfairly treated senator in state history.

“I won.”

About halfway through a Feb. 5 Governmental Operations and Security Committee public hearing, Roach asked Michael Latham, director of security for Town & Country Markets, about his campaign contributions during the last election cycle.

According to the state Public Disclosure Commission records, the Washington Food Industry Association, which is funded by many companies including Town & Country Markets, gave former Rep. Dahlquist $1,150 for her campaign while she was running against Roach for the Senate seat in 2014.

The Washington Food Industry Association also supports Senate Bill 5375.

The bill would require companies that compensate signature gatherers for the number of signatures they receive on an initiative or referendum to disclose more information about the signature gatherers to the state.

“Were you aware that legislators can be punished, after 24 years, (when) they don’t support a bill that you want, even though they have a perfect record with business,” Roach said to Latham during the public hearing, which was broadcast on Television Washington. “Do you think this is kind of heavy-handed, maybe?”

When Latham did not respond, Roach continued, “I think it’s terrible myself. Anyway, you need to know where your money’s going, because you know what? I won.”

Although the hearing was to continue for Senate Bill 5375, two other bills did not receive a hearing.

At the end of the hearing for SB 5375, Sen. Mark Liias, D-Mukilteo, said he was offended because he believed Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, suggested Liias presented evidence during the hearing that was not correct.

While Benton clarified he did not insinuate that Liias presented incorrect facts, Roach told the senators they should continue their argument out of the hearing room.

When Liias pressed the issue, Roach suddenly adjourned the session, leaving the hearings on SB 5535 and 5661 up in the air.

Admonishment

Owen’s Feb. 13 letter was sent to Roach after a complaint was delivered to Secretary of Senate Hunter Goodman about the public hearing from Jan Gee, president and CEO of the Washington Food Industry Association.

Gee wrote in the complaint, “Not only did we feel intimidated by her inference that we must ‘pay to play’ but these private business members were visibly shaken with a process that was far beyond their understanding of how the Legislature operates. Senator Roach’s behavior was unbecoming of a Senator and the management of the hearing was certainly outside the rules of the Senate.”

Owen wrote in his letter to Roach, “We have never before seen such a raw and public display connecting campaign contributions to legislative action. Our duty as elected officials is to represent all constituents, not merely those few who support our campaigns.”

Owen’s letter also details a list of other policy violations by Roach, dating back to 1999.

According to the letter, Roach was restricted from all contact with Republican caucus staff, most nonpartisan staff of Senate Committee Services and contact with the Office of Senate Counsel in 2009 after being investigated by the Senate for abusive behavior toward staff.

In 2010, Roach was also restricted from accessing the Senate Republican Caucus room and other meeting sites, and was stripped of the right to vote on caucus matters.

Roach’s voting rights and access to the caucus room was reinstated in 2012 during a budget stalemate when her vote was needed.

“As (Senate) President, I fully support additional punitive actions against you if your behavior does not immediately improve,” Owen wrote. “Your abusive behavior must stop.”

Owen also said Roach will be monitored by Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, who Owen said must be present during Roach’s meetings with committee staff to prevent “violations of our respectful workplace policy.”

Unfair treatment?

In a phone interview Friday after she received Owen’s letter, Roach clarified what she said during the Feb. 5 public hearing.

According to Roach, she had earlier discussions with the Washington Food Industry Association where she said if she was re-elected, she would have a hearing on Senate Bill 5375 despite her disapproval of the bill.

“I was telling them I was giving them a hearing even though I won,” Roach said. “I gave them a hearing because I promised I would.”

Roach said recent attacks on her career stem from being elected Senate President Pro Tempore in 2014, beating Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, for the position. The President Pro Tempore (Latin for “for the time being”) presides over the Senate when the Senate president is unavailable.

“I’m probably the most unfairly treated senator in the state of Washington,” Roach said, stating the attacks are “punishment” for defeating Sheldon.Owen strongly disagreed.

“Watch the video, talk to people who have been offended by her, and make the decision yourself whether she is being picked on,” he said in a later interview. “From what we saw, and some points we have received, she clearly is violating the rules of the Committee, and clearly… has stepped over the line when she equated campaign contributions to the hearing.

“Nobody is picking on Pam Roach.”