State Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, has been banned from the Senate Republican caucus in Olympia after colleagues told her she has repeatedly mistreated staff and should get counseling to manage her anger.
OLYMPIA — State Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, has been banned from the Senate Republican Caucus after colleagues told her she has repeatedly mistreated staff and should get counseling to manage her anger.
A letter sent to Roach by Senate GOP leaders said an internal investigation had concluded “it would be best to physically separate you from the caucus staff and from other Republican Senators while we are working on the floor.”
Roach can still vote, but she is barred from the caucus room where her colleagues discuss legislation, and she cannot deal directly with caucus staff or counsel.
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The punishment stems from an incident last year in which Roach berated a Senate staff attorney, telling him he should be fired.
The investigation found that Roach had “engaged in a very personal, demeaning attack” and created a hostile work environment.
Roach said she was being singled out by Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, and other Senate GOP leaders because she has criticized them.
“This is a leadership that wants to persecute me,” Roach said in an interview Friday afternoon.
Hewitt could not be reached for comment.
Roach said that in 2008, Hewitt screamed at her and stuck his clothed rear-end in her face during an off-campus Republican caucus meeting but was never punished for that behavior.
Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, who chairs the Senate Republican Caucus, would not comment on Roach’s punishment. “These are internal caucus matters, and that’s all I’m going to say.”
Roach was first elected to the state Senate in 1990 and has landed in the news frequently over the years for harsh remarks and behavior. Last year she ran unsuccessfully for King County Elections director.
Roach has been warned or reprimanded several times over the years about how she treats staff.
The letter from her caucus said its workplace policy states that senators “shall not engage in any behavior or make any comments which are demeaning and/or derogatory toward people” if it interferes with their work or creates an “intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”
The letter, dated Jan. 20, says Roach has “violated this policy on numerous occasions. Your conduct has been the basis for action on five separate occasions,” citing actions taken in 1998, 1999, 2003, 2008 and this month.
The most recent incident occurred last April in the Senate GOP caucus room, where Republican senators gather to review legislation and decide their agenda.
According to an investigation by an outside law firm, Roach berated Michael Hoover, an attorney who works for the Senate Republicans.
The incident, according to what Hoover told investigators, began after a Republican senator returned from giving a speech at a rally, and wanted to post related information and photos on her Web site.
The report says Hoover raised concerns about posting the material, given the constant ethical debate over the use of public funds for political purposes.
Several lawmakers disagreed, but Roach went “from zero to ten on the angry scale,” according to Hoover’s account to investigators.
Numerous staff members interviewed about the incident said Roach’s behavior made them uncomfortable. “It’s extremely intimidating. We call it being ‘Roached,’ ” one said, according to the investigation.
Her personal attacks made others in the caucus uncomfortable and created “an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment” for Hoover, according to a Jan. 7 letter from Secretary of the Senate Thomas Hoemann.
Roach on Friday disputed that account. She said she did get angry with Hoover, but she likened it to a family argument being blown out of proportion.
“In the end, I apologized. That should have been enough. But not for someone they want to come after,” Roach said.
Hoover declined to comment.
Hoemann’s letter reprimands Roach and, among other things, says she cannot have contact with Senate counsel and will not be assigned an intern during the 2010 session.
Hoemann would not discuss the letter or the investigation.
State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, chairman of the Legislature’s Facilities and Operations Committee, which oversees Senate staff and operations, said Roach is appealing her punishment.
The letter from Senate Republican leaders says, “the verbal attack on a Senate staff member was the basis for your recent … reprimand” and goes on to tell Roach that as a result: “You have no access to the SRC [Senate Republican Caucus] caucus room at any time — or any other SRC meeting site. For the purposes of SRC Procedures and Policies, you shall not be considered an eligible member of the caucus to vote on caucus matters.”
The letter concludes by telling Roach that while she is a “passionate advocate” for her district, she has also “demonstrated an ongoing pattern of treating your co-workers and employees with hostility and anger. As your fellow Senators, it is difficult to be in a room with you when you erupt in anger. For our employees it is unacceptable.
“We encourage you to avail yourself of one of the numerous counseling offers the Senate has made over the years to deal with your anger management.”
Andrew Garber: 360-236-8268 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Brunner: 360-236-8267 or email@example.com