One month after a Seattle woman accused state Sen. Joe Fain of raping her in 2007, there is little indication state or local officials plan to investigate the allegation before Election Day — and no guarantees that a review will ultimately happen.
One month after a Seattle woman accused state Sen. Joe Fain of raping her in 2007, there is little indication state or local officials plan to investigate the allegation before Election Day — and no guarantee that a review will ultimately happen.
That leaves voters to evaluate the allegation against Fain, a two-term Republican from Auburn who is up for re-election in King County’s 47th legislative District. He faces Democrat Mona Das in the voting period that ends Nov. 6.
Candace Faber spoke out publicly on Sept. 27, tweeting that Fain raped her in 2007. Faber has said the rape happened in a Washington, D.C., hotel room the night she graduated with a master’s degree from Georgetown University.
Fain has denied that allegation and called for an investigation. He has declined to comment further. Faber has said she would welcome an investigation, and state senators in both parties, along with Gov. Jay Inslee, have echoed those sentiments.
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But lawmakers, the secretary of the Senate and other officials have struggled over how to investigate something alleged to have occurred on the other side of the country and before Fain’s election to the Legislature.
In a series of tweets last week, Faber criticized Washington Republicans, King County and Gov. Jay Inslee for not initiating a review. She accused Fain of calling for an investigation “knowing full well that there’s no process for this yet.”
Meanwhile, state officials have remained largely silent.
Democratic leaders in the state Senate did not respond to a request for comment. Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, a leader on sexual-harassment issues for her party, referred questions to the Senate administration. Secretary of the Senate Brad Hendrickson did not respond to an email seeking comment.
In an open letter earlier this month, Rivers and eight other elected women defended Fain and called for a “complete and fair process” to evaluate the allegation. When asked to share who they thought should conduct a review, only one of the nine elected officials responded.
“I am waiting, like everyone else, for the Senate leadership to either launch their own investigation, or ask another entity to do it, but in the meantime, I still stand behind Sen. Fain, and am asking people to consider re-electing him,” said Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake.
Faber has said she does not intend to file a police report with Washington, D.C., authorities, in part because of the low number of rapes that are prosecuted and because she does not believe a criminal conviction alone would amount to justice. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia has said the department would only investigate if the allegation were reported.
On Oct. 17, an attorney representing Faber pro bono wrote to Inslee reiterating Faber’s willingness to participate in a review and to sit down with the governor’s office and other leaders to discuss how to proceed.
The governor’s office directed questions back to Faber’s attorney, Cheryl Snow, who said, “My understanding from the conversation is that Senate approval is necessary for the [legislative] investigation to take place.”
Snow said the Legislature should approve an investigation, and criticized lawmakers for not initiating one by now.
Before his election in 2010, Fain worked in the office of Metropolitan King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, starting in 2004.
County records obtained by The Seattle Times show that in May 2007, when Faber says the assault occurred, von Reichbauer took a five-day trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress about transportation and other issues and to attend an event held by Congressman Adam Smith’s office.
The records do not indicate whether Fain traveled with von Reichbauer; von Reichbauer directed questions about that to the county’s finance office, which couldn’t immediately say whether Fain was on the same trip. Faber said she met Fain at an event on the U.S. Capitol campus and later went out drinking and dancing with him.
If Fain traveled there for county business, two county council members say the county could investigate.
“I do believe that if it is a legally permissible use of funds, King County should retain counsel or other appropriate independent expertise and conduct the investigation that Senator Fain and Ms. Faber have both requested,” County Councilmember Rod Dembowski wrote in an email.
County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles said she would “probably” support a county investigation. The possibility of a county-led investigation “hasn’t come up in anything formal at all,” Kohl-Welles said. “It’s just people chattering about it.”
Spokesmen for the King County Prosecutor’s Office and King County Sheriff’s Office said those agencies would not conduct an investigation.
Councilmember Claudia Balducci described the allegation as “very serious,” but said King County should not investigate it.
“Suggesting an employment investigation by an entity that employed the accused person many years ago isn’t a serious response,” Balducci wrote in an email. “What could be the result? Firing the former employee after the fact? It looks more political than anything else.”
Fain has declined to answer questions regarding Faber’s allegation, and said on Sept. 30 he was limiting his public comments “in deference to any future investigative process.” He has not suggested who should conduct an investigation.
Asked about the fact that no investigation has been started, Das, the candidate running against Fain, demurred, writing in a text, “I’m a survivor and we should believe women when they come forward.”
Jessyn Farrell, a former state lawmaker who was among a handful of officials recently to call for Fain’s resignation, said King County would be a good option for an investigation. But Farrell said officials in Olympia must prepare for scenarios like this one.
“I’m really urging elected officials jump into this fray and start thinking through how these processes might look,” said Farrell. “And so far there is a lot of silence related to this, and it is deafening.”