Sen. Pam Roach has been cleared of ethics complaints regarding a 2013 trip to Turkey and Azerbaijan, the Washington Legislative Ethics Board announced Sunday.
This was the latest development in a nasty Republican-vs.-Republican race for the 31st District's state Senate seat. Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, R-Enumclaw, is challenging longtime incumbent Roach, R-Auburn. Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, has been supporting Dahlquist. While both Dahlquist and Roach are conservative, Dahlquist has said she wants to unseat Roach because the incumbent has an abrasive personality that has led her to feud with her own Senate Republican caucus.
All this has included a crossfire of complaints with the ethics board. Hurst, Dahlquist and their allies filed three complaints again Roach regarding her 2013 trip to Azerbaijan and Turkey. Roach and her allies filed four complaints against Hurst and Dahlquist — all which have been dismissed.
Bottom line: The ethics board has dismissed all seven complaints.
The three complaints against Roach stemmed from arrangements by a non-governmental Turkish organization — the Gulen Islamists led by a controversial Turkish imam now living in Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gulen — for what appeared to be a predominantly cultural trip to Turkey and Azerbaijan for a few hundred state legislators from all over the United States. Several Washington legislators had planned to go on that trip from May 21 to May 31, 2013.
Roach, however, was the only Washington legislator not to drop out of the trip, according to reports at the time by Northwest Public Radio and KIRO Radio. For one thing, deadlocked budget talks kept the Legislature in Olympia until almost July. In addition, the Turkish consulate warned that the trip's sponsors had possible ties to radical Islamist policies. And House and Senate attorneys warned that the trip did not fit the usual criteria for a legislative trip abroad, including whether there was legislative or trade activity involved.
The formal complaints against Roach were that the trip was illegal, that she abandoned her duties during the 2013 legislative session, and that she visited a group hostile to the United States.
The ethics board concluded her trip did not violate any state law or regulations.
Weeks ago, the ethics board declared void four ethics complaints against Dahlquist and Hurst. Those involved the timing of a fundraising event; remarks that Dahlquist and Hurst made about the Gulen Islamists group; and Hurst's conversations with an attorney who was planning to run for a judicial position. In response to other complaints by Hurst, Roach earlier agreed to repay the state for some mileage expenses and obtain separate campaign and office mailboxes.