State Rep. Christopher Hurst says state Sen. Pam Roach should be investigated for possible improprieties in her legislative and campaign finances, and he says he will approach the appropriate authorities to get a probe or probes launched.
Hurst made the allegations late last week in a lengthy email sent to some of the area media.
Roach says that charges wouldn’t hold up and questions Hurst’s motivation and timing in going to the media before filing any formal complaints. And she said Hurst has engaged in election-related activities of his own that are questionable under state law.
The charges and counter-charges underline the depth of divisions within the 31st District, which includes Auburn and Enumclaw, over the long-serving Roach. Hurst, a Democrat, is supporting Republican Rep. Cathy Dahlquist of Enumclaw, in her election campaign to unseat fellow Republican Roach from the 31st District Senate seat. Dahlquist and Hurst, who both are 31st District representatives, frequently work together across the aisle in the Washington House.
Hurst's email to the press came less than four weeks prior to the top-two Aug. 5 primary. Dahlquist and Roach are favored to win, setting up a faceoff between the two again in November.
Roach has served in the Washington Senate since 1990, making her the most senior senator in Olympia. She is known for her abrasiveness, which once led her to be banned from her own Republican caucus. Dahlquist has served in the House since 2010, deciding this year to challenge Roach. Both women are solid conservatives. Hurst is one of the more conservative House Democrats. A retired longtime police detective, Hurst is known as direct and willing to speak out. He faces Republican Phil Fortunato in November.
Hurst alleges that Roach charged the state for mileage driven for campaign purposes, neglected her work as a legislator to travel, and improperly conducted campaign business on a legislative cell phone that is reimbursed by the state. "It appears that Pam Roach is funding her campaigns with taxpayer dollars and has been doing so for many years,” Hurst wrote in his email.
He also questioned the level of expenses she has claimed for reimbursement by the state for official business as a legislator. Hurst said Roach has been reimbursed for $20,431 in expenses since 2011. His own reimbursements for the same period were $3,202, while Dahlquist's reimbursed expenses were $2,927, Hurst said.
In a Sunday phone interview, Hurst said a Republican consultant, Chad Minnick, stumbled across the fact that Roach's campaign cell phone number is the same as her legislative cell phone number. That prompted the consultant and Hurst to dig further on their own into Roach's expenses.
"We saw things that were staggering to the imagination," Hurst said about Roach's expenses.
Roach criticized Hurst for going to the press with his allegations before submitting them to the appropriate boards and agencies for investigation. "He has places to make those accusations,” she said.
Crosscut talked twice by phone with Roach on Sunday about Hurst's allegations — once for 45 minutes and once for five minutes.
"Chris is all about being a big blowfish. He's a frickin' blowfish," Roach said. She said that since Hurst has accused her of improprieties, she can accuse him of improprieties in return.
Roach said a potential King County judge candidate, John Torres, filed a police complaint against Hurst, alleging he made illegal threats of unveiling information about the dissolution of Torres' marriage unless he withdrew from the race. The Auburn police investigated the complaint. The police concluded no threats were made, and that Hurst was merely fulfilling an earlier request by Torres to give him a heads-up on any problems surfacing that could affect his candidacy, according to Auburn police records seen by Crosscut. Torres withdrew his candidacy on May 15, which was one week prior to his complaint with the police.
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