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Senate emails show Sen. Pam Roach returns about $5,000 in expense payments

Sen. Pam Roach - Courtesy photo
Sen. Pam Roach
— image credit: Courtesy photo

According to emails received by The Courier-Herald through a public records request concerning Republican Sen. Pam Roach's questionable expense reports, the senator has paid back about $5,000.

Roach delivered four blank checks to the Senate administration July 22 following stories published in The Courier-Herald and by News Tribune reporter Jordan Schrader concerning payments to her for expenses. An email from the Senate administration outlining the money she owed the state.

Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, R-Enumclaw is challenging Roach for the Senate. The Dahlquist campaign first raised the issue of Roach's expense reports payments alleging the Senator was violating state law by mixing campaign and legislative functions with her post office box and cell phone.

The Dahlquist campaign also questioned Roach's mileage reimbursements alleging some reflected the merging of legislative and campaign functions and some entries were inflated.

The emails show Hunter Goodman, secretary of the Senate and Keith Buchholz, Senate attorney, reviewed her expense records and found a total of $612.29 was owed for incorrect mileage to a Feb. 26 Sportsman's Club event in Oregon, the purchase of two cell phones and rent on her post office box.

The administration also calculated Roach owed $4515.91 for mileage she was paid to pick up her mail at the post office box.

The calculations and money owed by Roach appear to date back to 2009

Roach said during a July 18 interview with The Courier-Herald,  P.O. Box 682 was used for her personal, legislature and campaign mail.

She also said if there was a problem with her expense reports it was not her responsibility but was the Senate administration's  responsibility.

"The responsibility for this goes to the person writing the check," Roach said.

In an email from Goodman to Roach dated July 23 he wrote:

"I understand that you have used the post office box for years. It is only after the Senate changed to a reimbursement system in 2009 that we have any records regarding any specific use of state funds. Here, our records show that you used state funds to pay the rental fee for the post office box on November 4, 2009. Because of the "zero tolerance" policy, you were then unable to use that same box for campaign purposes. (You could rent a different box in the same facility, or rent a box somewhere else, for campaign issues. However, you used the same box that the state paid for.)

"These three points all combine in this instance:

1. Members are prohibited from using the same address for legislative and campaign activity. This is a long standing ethics rule, regardless of whether the address is in Olympia or in district. A brief review of your reports with the Public

Disclosure Commission shows that the same box was and is used in your

campaigns.

2. State law prohibits the use of state resources to support campaigns. Here, by

having the Senate pay the fee for your post office box, your campaigns were able to save a few dollars. That constitutes support of your campaigns, and,

once more, because of the zero tolerance approach, we must take the exact steps we are taking to resolve the issue.

3. Senate policy implements this prohibition by requiring that improper payments made to a member be re-paid by that member.

"I can certainly appreciate your frustration. However, once you used your office funds to pay for the post office box, that box became entirely off limits for campaign use. And because we do not monitor campaigns, the Senate was unaware of that fact that you used its post office box for your campaigns. A more capable opponent in 2010 might have brought this to our attention then, but that did not happen.

"I also want to add that I greatly appreciate your efforts to confront these issues and resolve them. But my hands are tied due to the laws and rules the legislature and Senate have adopted. Had we been aware of the campaign use of your post office box, we would have instructed our staff in accounting to cease all reimbursement for the rental and the mileage, until such time as the legislative and campaign."

In an email from Roach sent Saturday to Buchholz, shortly after the release of the Goodman-Buchholz emails,  she wrote:

"Please have Marne fill in the blank check that is remaining to reflect the amount due. I transferred money to my account on Thursday waiting to see what the final amount would be."

Roach requested the Senate now send her mail to her home address on Green Valley Road.

This story will be updated tomorrow.

 

RCW 42.17A.550: Use of public funds for political purposes.

Public funds, whether derived through taxes, fees, penalties, or any other sources, shall not be used to finance political campaigns for state or school district office. A county, city, town, or district that establishes a program to publicly finance local political campaigns may only use funds derived from local sources to fund the program. A local government must submit any proposal for public financing of local political campaigns to voters for their adoption and approval or rejection.

 

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