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Tag: Department of Corrections


UPDATED: Corrections Secretary Bernie Warner cancels nonprofit agreements, keeps official fined over ethics

Corrections Secretary Bernie Warner says he has reprimanded an official who was fined for an ethics violation, but won’t fire her as requested by a state lawmaker.

Warner wrote to Sen. Mike Carrell this week telling him about his decision, a month after the Executive Ethics Board handed down its $13,400 fine on Belinda Stewart.

Stewart has appealed the fine, the ethics board said today.

“What I told the senator is I certainly share his expectations in having the highest standards of ethics and accountability for state employees,” Warner told me, outlining steps he’s taken to address ethics and Stewart’s

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New Secretary Bernie Warner reshuffles leadership of Corrections Department

Corrections Secretary Bernie Warner has reorganized the top jobs in his agency, and promoted Dan Pacholke to prisons director.

Warner briefly served as prisons director before Gov. Chris Gregoire tapped him this summer to replace Eldon Vail, who had been forced out by an interoffice affair.

Vail isn’t the only recent departure. He was followed out the door by two assistant secretaries, Scott Blonien and Cheryl Strange.

In a Thursday letter to staff, Warner said he had promoted Pacholke, the deputy director of prisons, to the top job. He previously led Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen and Cedar Creek in Thurston County. Warner said:

Dan has shown great leadership in his work to implement safety initiatives in prisons through changes in policy, practice, technology, and training. He is a veteran of the Washington State correctional system, having worked in five prisons throughout the state. I am glad to have Dan in this leadership role.

Warner announced several interim appointments, including Susan Lucas to replace Strange as assistant secretary of health services;  Sandy Mullins to take over Blonien’s role in charge of policy support; Alan Haskins as budget director, Steve Sinclair to share the deputy prisons director duties with Earl Wright, and Don Holbrook as superintendent of the Washington State Penintentiary in Walla Walla.

And he gave a bit more information about the reassignment of Belinda Stewart, which he announced Sept. 9 without giving details. Stewart was transferred from her job as communications director pending the results of an investigation into her management of nonprofit groups on state time. He wrote Thursday:

Belinda Stewart, with many years of experience in Prisons, will be assigned to special initiatives as designated by the Prisons Director.

Olympian reporter Brad Shannon asked him for more details last week but Warner wouldn’t say what rank Stewart would have or where she would work. Warner said she would be in the prisons division (although his organizational chart places the “special initiatives” job in the policy support area under Mullins.)

Warner named Chad Lewis to take over as communications director for Stewart.

Here’s the org chart: Read more »


State will pay $3.3 million to family of King County deputy killed by ex-convict

Here’s the story I wrote for Friday’s print edition of The News Tribune. (Below it are links to stories that I wrote in 2007 that are related to this case, as well as the state’s news release.)

BY Joseph Turner
The News Tribune

Washington has agreed to pay $3.275 million to the family of a King County deputy who was killed by an ex-convict under supervision by the state prison system.

The widow and child of deputy Steve Cox claimed the state Department of Corrections was negligent in its supervision of Raymond Porter, a drug offender who had been released from prison and killed Deputy Cox in December 2006.

The original $22 million claim against the state, filed a year after his death, alleged prison officials let Porter out of prison too soon. He had been serving time at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center outside Aberdeen for drug and assault convictions and had been released only four months before he killed Deputy Cox.

“Deputy Cox was a courageous and beloved officer who protected his community and we all are diminished by his loss,” DOC Secretary Eldon Vail said in a news release issued on Thursday. “We sympathize with the loss of love, compassion, nurturing and other immeasurable qualities Steve Cox brought to his family. The Department of Corrections is deeply saddened and heartsick over the death of Deputy Cox. We hope the Cox family can begin to put part of this tragedy in the past and begin healing.”

Seattle attorney John Payne, who represented the Cox family, said Maria Cox, the deputy’s widow, “is very grateful and relieved to have this resolved and that she can put this behind her and move on.”
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