State Rep. Susan Fagan, R-Pullman, will resign on Friday amid allegations that she cheated on her legislative reimbursements and pressured her assistants to help with the frauds.
Fagan's impending resignation was announced late Wednesday by the Washington House's Republican and Democratic caucus leader and House Chief Clerk Barbara Baker, in three emails. Baker explained that House Republican leaders met with Fagan last Friday and asked her to resign after a preliminary investigation by the Washington Legislative Ethics Board concluded that allegations by two legislative assistants were well-founded.
Fagan is accused of pressuring assistants to help her cheat on her legislative expenses reimbursement paperwork. She allegedly claimed expenses to fake legislative events, claimed more legislative expenses than she is entitled to and sought state reimbursements for her own campaign activities.
Fagan, 67, was unavailable for comment Wednesday evening.
She has agreed to reimburse the state for the falsely claimed expenses. The exact amount has not been nailed down, but it appears to be several thousand dollars, according to Baker. The Legislative Ethics Board will decide later whether to take additional action.
“I am very disappointed with Representative Fagan’s conduct," wrote House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, in his emailed statement. "Her misuse of state travel and reimbursement funds is a serious breach of public trust. We believed the allegations were serious when this matter initially came to our attention and requested a thorough review and investigation by the Legislative Ethics Board."
In his emailed statement, House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, wrote: "It’s become clear that discrepancies in her reimbursement forms are more than just clerical errors."
The Jan. 6 complaint from Baker to the Legislative Ethics Board claimed that Fagan made up many events or meetings in order to be reimbursed for the cost of driving to them. She is also accused of gaming the mileage reimbursement system so that an unlimited House mileage account would be charged rather than her own office's annual account (of $6,500). She also inflated mileage claims in some cases.
At least twice, Fagan is alleged to have faked legislative business trips to get reimbursed for picking up campaign contribution checks. At least once, alleges the complaint, she faked a legislative business event at a county fair in order to claim reimbursement for working a campaign booth. Finally, Fagen pressured her staff to change her reimbursement requests to reflect these frauds.
The House chief clerk's complaint to the ethics board quoted one staffer saying: "I am facilitating her by entering fake meetings and falsifying her expenses, and am playing the loyal assistant who does what [the assistant is] told even when [the assistant] knows it's wrong , or the dumb puppet that she can manipulate to do whatever she wants. She knows I'm not either. ... I feel a bit like that goat on Jurassic Park, tied up, waiting to get eaten alive."
The assistant left her job in part because she was uncomfortable with the situation, according to the complaint.
Fagan, who serves on the House appropriations and education committees, is a former public affairs official who worked for private and government employers. She was first elected to her post in late 2009 in a special election following the death of Rep. Steven Hailey. She ran unopposed in 2014. Her southeastern Washington district covers Adams, Asotin, Garfield and Whitman counties and parts of Franklin and Spokane counties. The county commissioners from those six counties will pick a Republican to fill her post until the next regular election.