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Ethics board finds violations likely in case of Department of Corrections’ Belinda Stewart

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Sep. 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm with No Comments »
September 9, 2011 1:35 pm
Belinda Stewart

Meeting behind closed doors today, the state Executive Ethics Board talked about allegations against a Department of Corrections administrator who worked on behalf of nonprofit groups on state time.

When the board emerged, it voted 3-0 to declare there is “reasonable cause” to believe ethics laws were violated in the case.

A more than 20-page report explains the findings and the board expects to release it this afternoon. The board will ask for a response from the target of the investigation, DOC Communications Director Belinda Stewart.

State Sen. Mike Carrell, who filed one of the complaints against Stewart, sent a letter today to new Corrections Secretary Bernie Warner asking him to fire Stewart.

The ethics board has the authority to fine Stewart but not to dismiss her.

The department said it would make a statement after reviewing the report.

Stewart ran at least five nonprofits whose official addresses were the same as DOC’s Tumwater headquarters.

Carrell’s complaint said Stewart made use of state computers, state vehicles and her subordinates, who helped run the groups. He documented at least 593 hours that one graphics technician worked while on the job.

The groups’ stated missions are tied to corrections and law enforcement work, including a group that aims to provide training for women in law enforcement and recruit more women to join the profession. That group counted many DOC officials among its members and essentially received an official seal of approval from DOC to do a small amount of its work on state time.

DOC also concluded in an earlier investigation that even though Stewart did work for the group on state time, she did nothing wrong because the work benefited the agency.

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