As chairman of the Public Safety Committee in the state House, Rep. Roger Goodman has built a reputation as a leading crusader for laws cracking down on impaired driving.
But while seeking re-election this year in the Eastside’s 45th Legislative District, the Kirkland Democrat has battled allegations that he drove his own children while stoned from smoking marijuana.
Goodman has denied the accusations, which a Republican group culled from a divorce filing and publicized in political ads. His allies, including law-enforcement groups, have leapt to Goodman’s defense and portrayed the GOP attacks as a below-the-belt smear campaign.
Yet in 2012, Goodman sent a text message to his ex-wife in which he appeared to admit he’d repeatedly driven their children while stoned. Liv Grohn, the ex-wife, recently provided the previously undisclosed text and other documents to The Seattle Times, saying she wants to clear her name and prove her allegations against Goodman are true.
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In an interview, Goodman admitted to one of Grohn’s charges — that she caught him in June 2011 buckling their young children in the family car and then slipping behind the garage to smoke marijuana, intending to then drive them to a local beach. “Yeah, I guess I took a toke,” he said.
But Goodman called that an isolated mistake and not a habit. He said he has never driven “impaired” and that his texted admission to Grohn was “facetious” and came during a heated argument.
State court records show Goodman has never been arrested or charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The text exchange provided by Grohn occurred in May 2012, when the couple were still married and arguing about Goodman’s marijuana use. Goodman wrote to Grohn that she was “free to create a written record to serve as ‘evidence,’ ” but warned texting “isn’t a good medium for these types of exchanges.”
In a lengthy response, Grohn challenged Goodman’s refusal to admit “the reason you haven’t driven the kids for the past year is because you drove them repeatedly stoned and only stopped because I accidentally caught you and won’t let you drive them.”
Grohn continued that Goodman had “yelled and screamed at me that it was fine to drive stoned because you are a safe driver.” She added that he was “refusing to be honest” and that she couldn’t trust him unless he admitted his behavior.
Goodman replied: “I admit everything you’ve stated above. Now you have more ‘evidence.’ ”
In an interview, Goodman said he recalls that text, but that it shouldn’t be taken as a literal confession. He said he was just trying to get Grohn off his back and move on to other topics. “I wanted to mediate and not ratchet it up,” he said.
Grohn declined to be quoted but provided a statement from her attorney, Anne Bremner, that accused Goodman of causing “long-term harm to the reputation of the mother of his children by launching a very public smear campaign against her.”
Since the driving-stoned allegations first surfaced last year in a Sammamish Review article, the statement said Grohn has been harassed on social media and email and that her house had been broken into.
“For the last two years, Ms. Grohn chose not to speak to the press and has only released the evidence of Goodman admitting, in his own words, that he did, in fact, drive their children stoned in order to put this smear campaign to rest,” the statement said.
Grohn, a Democrat who runs a marketing and video-production firm, says her business has suffered as a result of the controversy.
Goodman, an attorney who has served in the state House since 2007, is seeking re-election this year against Republican challenger Joel Hussey.
In the run-up to the August primary, the state House GOP’s Reagan Fund spent $44,000 on ads attacking Goodman over the driving-while-stoned allegations and other material from his divorce. Opponents also launched websites and Facebook pages to publicize the controversy.
Goodman took 54 percent of the vote in the primary, while Hussey managed 46 percent.
In an email, Hussey said he was “troubled” by the allegations against Goodman. “Public officials need to be held to a high standard, especially on an issue like this which is central to the safety of our community,” Hussey said. If the allegations are substantiated, he said, Goodman should not remain chair of the Public Safety Committee.
But Hussey said his focus in the campaign is on funding schools and restoring “fiscal common sense in the state House.”
Goodman has long been an advocate of legalizing and regulating marijuana sales, in addition to his work strengthening penalties for impaired driving. His supporters point to his reputation as an effective policy wonk who has sponsored successful legislation on a variety of criminal-justice issues. In 2013, Goodman was named a “Legislative Champion” by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Taking the Fifth
During the couple’s divorce negotiations, Goodman asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked in writing by Grohn’s divorce attorney about illegal drug use, including whether he’d driven under the influence of drugs. The couple’s divorce was finalized last year.
Goodman has admitted to smoking marijuana before it was legal in Washington state. He said he sought to hide his pot smoking from Grohn during their 17-year marriage, because she frowned on it. But Goodman said he was not the problem user that she made him out to be in divorce filings.
Goodman called Grohn’s accusations that he’s orchestrated harassment of her “paranoid and hysterical.” He said Grohn’s insistence on waging a public fight will only hurt her own standing in the community.
During the divorce, Goodman did not formally rebut Grohn’s sworn declaration making the driving-while-stoned claim and other allegations. He said he wished Grohn had agreed to a quiet divorce instead of publicly mounting a “full frontal assault” by filing public declarations in court.
Bremner’s statement for Grohn said she was offering the new information now to protect her reputation as a small-business owner.
“She is not a public figure and has done nothing wrong yet she continues to be maligned, simply because she told the truth in a court of law, under penalty of perjury, in order to try to protect their children from harm,” the statement said.