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Ethics complaint dismissed against Sen. Mike Carrell

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Nov. 3, 2011 at 11:45 am |
November 3, 2011 11:05 am

When he perceives wrongdoing by state employees, Lakewood Republican state Sen. Mike Carrell tends to air the allegations in his weekly newsletters. One of his broadsides against a frequent target, the communications office at the Department of Corrections, prompted a complaint that he was going too far.

But the Legislative Ethics Board said today it has dismissed the ethics complaint from a DOC employee because the board lacks jurisdiction over criminal laws.

“This was sort of retribution for me looking into what’s actually going on,” Carrell said today.

The fuss was over salary information in a chart included in the Sept. 7 edition of Carrell’s “Kitchen Cabinet” newsletter. The newsletter is still online, but the chart has been removed, along with references to it in the text. Carrell said he didn’t know why.

Here’s what the original said:

As you can see from this chart [note: broken link], Stewart’s employees with the the highest pay increases are the ones who allegedly worked on Stewart’s non-profit ventures and their salaries exceed the state Department of Personnel salary range for the positions that they hold.

The accusation refers to staff who worked for then-DOC Communications Director Belinda Stewart, who is under investigation for her work on nonprofits with ties to DOC. Carrell alleged her staff received suspicious pay increases right before all state employees took a pay cut.

The ethics board’s decision:

COMPLAINT 2011 – NO. 4

In Re Carrell

October, 2011

JURISDICTION DETERMINATION – ORDER OF DISMISSAL

1. Nature of the Complaint

The complaint was received on September 12, 2011.  The complainant, an employee of the Department of Corrections (DOC), alleges that Senator Carrell violated RCW 42.20.040 and RCW 42.52.900 when he published a legislative newsletter which contained certain salary information related to the complainant.   According to the complaint the newsletter infers that complainant’s salary increases were improperly related to her alleged performance of improper services on behalf of her DOC supervisor.

2. Jurisdiction

RCW 42.52.320(1) limits the jurisdiction of this Board to the enforcement of the Ethics Act and rules adopted under it with respect to members and employees of the legislature.

RCW 42.20.040 is not part of the Ethics Act.  It is a penal statute which makes it a crime for a public officer to knowingly make any false or misleading statement in any official report or statement.  Violation of the statute is punishable by imprisonment for up to one year.

RCW 42.52.900 is the intent section of the Ethics Act.  “The intent section is a statement of values and may be helpful in interpreting a substantive provision of the Act, but it is not self-executing and standing alone does not confer jurisdiction on the Board (Complaint 2003 – No. 11 and other opinions).

3. OrderThe complaint is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

David R. Draper – ChairDate: 10/31/11

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