Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday announced the resignation of one state worker and the demotions of two others in connection with the mistaken early release of prisoners due to a long-standing computer programming error.
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee Monday announced the resignation of one state worker and the demotions of two others in connection to the mistaken early release of prisoners due to a long-standing computer programming error.
Inslee also announced Monday the appointment of Dick Morgan as acting secretary at the state Department of Corrections (DOC).
Morgan worked at DOC for more than 30 years before retiring in 2010 as the agency’s director of prisons. He replaces Secretary Dan Pacholke, who was appointed to the position in October and resigned last month.
Resignations, demotions and reprimands in mistaken early release of prisoners
Four state officials have resigned and others have been demoted or reprimanded in connection with the early release of prisoners by the Department of Corrections (DOC).
• Doug Hoffer, former DOC chief information officer, who had been working at another state agency
• Denise Doty, a former corrections assistant secretary said to be the highest-ranking official to know in 2012 of the issue
• Ronda Larson, the assistant attorney general who in 2012 advised corrections staff against hand-calculating prison sentences to stop the early release of prisoners
• DOC Secretary Dan Pacholke, appointed to the agency’s top job in October
• DOC’s risk manager, Kathy Gastreich, who received an email in December 2012 detailing the problem and the possibility for it to affect hundreds of prison sentences
• Former business manager David Dunnington, the person who prioritized programming fixes for a database known as OMNI
Letters of reprimand
• DOC records administrator Wendy Stigall, who the report said initially tried to tell others in 2012 about the problem
• IT business analyst Sue Schuler, who an investigative report concluded shared some responsibility for the delay of a programming fix
Source: Office of Gov. Jay Inslee, The Seattle Times archives
In a Monday afternoon news conference, Inslee said that reforming the agency requires “someone respected, who has had experience in our present system.”
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“Dick has had a long and well respected career with DOC,” the governor said.
Morgan’s appointment came along with what are expected to be the last personnel decisions in response to the mistake, which between 2002 and 2015 freed certain types of offenders early.
Inslee’s announcement comes more than a week after an investigative report commissioned by the governor identified several staffers and officials as sharing blame. Two of those discussed in the report resigned last month.
Meanwhile, two Republican state senators leading their own inquiry into the early releases criticized the governor’s moves as “superficial.”
After the mistake was identified in 2012, DOC didn’t calculate prison sentences by hand to stop new early releases from occurring. And a programming fix requested late that year to correct the sentence miscalculations was delayed 15 times — and not made until earlier this year.
Inslee’s office announced Monday that DOC’s former chief information officer, Doug Hoffer, resigned from his position at WaTech, the state’s central IT services agency.
According to the governor’s report, Hoffer “had only a vague recollection of the problem,” and his lack of awareness was “a significant management failure.”
DOC’s risk manager, Kathy Gastreich, was effectively demoted and has reversion rights to another position at DOC.
Gastreich received an email in December 2012 from another agency staffer detailing the problem and the possibility for it to affect hundreds of prison sentences. But Gastreich, “has no recollection of this email and claims she was not aware of this problem until very recently,” according to the governor-commissioned report.
Former business manager David Dunnington has been demoted to another position within the agency. As the person who prioritized fixes for a database known as OMNI, Dunnington “clearly understood that OMNI was miscalculating release dates for [some] offenders,” the report concluded.
Two others — records administrator Wendy Stigall and IT business analyst Sue Schuler — were issued letters of reprimand.
Those named in the report had the opportunity to address the claims made against them, Inslee said.
“We have given this a very, very thorough review after listening to the employees,” he said. “It was important to do that, for fairness purposes.”
The report said former Corrections Secretary Bernie Warner did not know about the early releases. But Inslee said that Warner, who held the position between July 2011 and October 2015, shared some of the blame.
“Because he was the leader at that time, he would have resigned or would have been removed from office,” Inslee said.
DOC officials learned of the problem in December 2012, after the family member of a victim notified the agency, worried that an offender might be released early.
That month, an email memo from the state Attorney General’s Office advised corrections staff not to hand-calculate prison sentences in order to stop the early release of prisoners. The author of that email, Assistant Attorney General Ronda Larson, resigned in February.
Denise Doty, a former corrections assistant secretary said to be the highest-ranking official to know in 2012 of the issue, also resigned last month. Doty, who in late 2012 reported directly to Warner, stepped down from the state government job she’d held since departing from DOC.
According to the report, there was “ample evidence indicating that Denise Doty was aware of the problem and failed to address it.”
Inslee and Pacholke have said they learned of the problem in mid-December 2015. Early last month, Pacholke announced his resignation.
In an email at the time, Pacholke accused one of the GOP senators leading their own investigation of “blaming and shaming” agency staff and using the issue to wage political warfare.
On Monday, Inslee praised Pacholke as instrumental in getting the problem fixed.
A recent DOC review of more than 1,500 potentially affected inmates released since December 2011 showed three-quarters of them had been mistakenly released early. If that projection holds, about 2,800 offenders since 2002 might have been freed before their correct release dates.
Officials have said that two people were killed by offenders who still should have been in prison in 2015.
In addition to the governor’s review, GOP Sens. Mike Padden of Spokane Valley and Steve O’Ban of University Place are conducting their own investigation through the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
In a joint statement Monday, Padden and O’Ban criticized Inslee’s moves and sought to tie the problem to Warner and the governor.
“The fact that the governor has decided to punish a handful of midlevel managers at the Department of Corrections for one of the most tragic management failures in Washington history should not make any of us comfortable,” the senators wrote.
“Accountability isn’t just for the low person on the totem pole, nor does it stop with the one in the middle,” they added. “You can be sure we’ll be asking the big-picture questions as the Senate’s independent investigation continues.”