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Senate decides it has no Pam Roach problem

Pam Roach

The case is closed on the latest Pam Roach affair — the double investigation of her alleged verbal abuse of a Republican staffer and of who leaked a report on this matter to the Associated Press.

The final results: No sanctions against Sen. Roach, R-Auburn. The Senate upgrades its be-nice-to-others-at-work policies. No one is hunting anymore for the secret leaker to the AP — at least officially.

The Senate Facilities and Operations Committee — a normally obscure housekeeping and personnel matters panel — voted unanimously at a short, closed session Tuesday to terminate both investigations. "The committee felt it had all the information it needed," said committee chairman Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver.

The investigation reports will become publicly available Wednesday. Roach was not present at the late Tuesday meeting in the Capitol building, and was not available for comment.

This affair has a convoluted history.

Roach lost her Republican Caucus access in 2010 because she had verbally abused Senate staff members. That sanction included losing her privileges in working directly with Senate staff members. But in December of last year, Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, and 23 Republicans combined forces to take over the 49-member Senate. They needed Roach as the 25th vote. So they appointed Roach as chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations Committee and welcomed her back to the Republican caucus.

Meanwhile, someone leaked a Senate internal report to the AP detailing a previously undisclosed March 2012 incident in which Roach supposedly verbally abused the staff member in charge of monitoring her sanctions.

In writing, Roach had appealed her loss of staff-access privileges. Benton said her appeal document won't be made public, saying that would be Roach's call.

In a closed meeting on Jan.15, the committee voted 4-3 along party lines to restore Roach's staffing privileges. But the investigation into the 2012 incident wasn't formally concluded until Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Sens. David Frockt, D-Seattle, and Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, said they still believe Roach's staffing privileges should be revoked, but they voted to end the investigations because the entire affair had dragged on too long.

Benton said the matter has led to several changes in the Senate's respect-in-the-workplace policies.

For exclusive coverage of the state Legislature, check out Crosscut's Olympia 2013 page.

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