State Senate leaders today announced they have reached a settlement that resolves an employee’s complaint and “re-affirms” the Senate’s 2010 sanctions against Auburn Sen. Pam Roach.
Senate Secretary Tom Hoemann said the Senate sanctions were never dropped, even after Republicans allowed Roach to return to their private caucus meetings last winter around the same time they needed her for a key budget vote. Hoemann said Roach continues to be prohibited from communicating directly with GOP caucus staff and most nonpartisan committee staff.
Nevertheless, her return to the caucus prompted Senate GOP attorney Mike Hoover to demand $1.75 million in a claim that was a potential prelude to a lawsuit. He said her access to staff had been restored in exchange for her vote, creating a hostile work environment. Hoover had been the target of Roach’s anger in an episode that led to the sanctions.
The Senate’s seven-member Facilities and Operations Committee unanimously approved a settlement resolving the claim. The agreement signed Wednesday by both sides doesn’t give Hoover any money for damages, but provides up to $15,000 for his attorney’s fees and keeps him on paid leave until he finds new work, up to 45 days.
The Senate doesn’t have to make any changes as part of the deal but agrees it will review its respectful-workplace policy for possible changes, such as appointing “facilitators” to take informal complaints about alleged violations.
Attempts to reach Sen. Roach were not immediately successful. Two of her phone voice-mail boxes were full.
UPDATE 11:25 a.m.: Roach issued a statement by e-mail saying: “While I am not at liberty to comment directly on the specifics, I am happy that this matter is over and am totally vindicated in this matter aimed solely at defaming my good character.”
Here’s Roach’s full statement:
I am sorry the Senate decided to release this statement in my absence. I am currently on humanitarian missions in both Romania and Zambia and the Senate knows this. In Romania, I played an instrumental role in a health care mission. In Zambia, I am representing several national legislative organizations, the National Foundation of Women Legislators, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and a non profit with which I work.
The Senate has enormous resources with which to defend itself. Those assets have allowed them to call the bluff and send away a plaintiff who never did have a case. By law and tradition I have been unable to comment on the treatment that I have received by a few Senate leaders in my own party. I have never been afforded counsel or been interviewed by the Senate Committee on Facilities and Operations during false accusations against me in the past. They only want fairness when it involves the entire Senate. Justice is sought for individual members on a political basis.
I believe the Senate process for such outrageous accusations and lies about me by Mr. Hoover, should be reviewed. No member of the legislature, when personally defamed should have to go it alone. I have always refused to sacrifice my family resources, potentially tens of thousands of dollars, just to defend against charges that anyone can make at any time.
While I am not at liberty to comment directly on the specifics, I am happy that this matter is over and am totally vindicated in this matter aimed solely at defaming my good character. (When I return I will seek advice on what I can say.)
Beyond this, I am calling for open actions by the Legislature in such matters. I personally know of employees who have been paid off to leave in order to protect members who actually did have employees with a cause of action. Yet, the usual star chamber method employed against some selected members, only for political purposes, continues.
Again, while I am satisfied with this arrangement, I am not satisfied with the powers some members can wield over others. Political hate aimed at hurting me is wrong and needs to be addressed. I know that having an open process is the only way to prevent powerful people from misusing their power.
I will return from my successful missions Tuesday evening and available for interviews about my experiences at that time.www.Pamroachreport.blogspot.com which mentions some of my activities. I did a radio show for an hour this morning in Livingston, Zambia. Then I was received by the mayor and the local TV station. This afternoon I toured Victoria Falls with members of the Economic Resource Group in Zambia which is hosting me. I will have dinner with national officials in a few minutes. all costs are being born by me and my husband, Jim.