Citizens group targets Gregoire - Gubernatorial candidate accused of `ongoing and systematic misconduct'


by Mike Archbold
King County Journal Reporter

AUBURN, WA-- A citizens group that won its battle last year against the state's siting of a sex-predator halfway house in the Auburn area has a new target: Attorney General Christine Gregoire.

At a press conference Monday, members of the group, Concerned Citizens of Auburn and Federal Way, demanded that Gov. Gary Locke order an independent investigation into what they describe is ``ongoing and systematic misconduct'' by Gregoire, now a Democratic candidate for governor.

Locke, however, responded late Monday with a firm no.

``I am confident that a thorough investigation into the issues was conducted and I do not intend to press for additional inquiry,'' he said in a statement issued by a press secretary.

Yvonne Ward, the group's attorney, said Locke's quick decision was disheartening and proves their case that the attorney general is not accountable to anyone.

``The fact that the governor in one day declines to even look at this, at six years of allegations, proves there is no oversight of the attorney general's office,'' she said when told of Locke's statement.

``Who watches the watchdog when the governor won't even get involved? It is really unfortunate. It appears partisanship has played a major role in obstructing citizens' right to get information they have a right to.''

Ward said her group will now pursue the Legislature to get the facts out. The only other option is a recall election that is expensive and isn't a fact-finding proceeding, she added.

The group also has asked Legislative leaders to conduct appropriate hearings, including the possible impeachment of Gregoire.

The group is calling for an inquiry into 27 allegations of misconduct, malpractice and perjury dating back to 1998, including Gregoire's failure to meet a deadline last year that removed North Bend as a possible site for the sex-predator house.

``She missed a deadline in the sex-predator litigation and then refused to correct the error, out of fear of bad publicity,'' said Ward. ``On behalf of my community, I was forced to go to court and fix Gregoire's acts of malpractice, at great expense to my clients. Her conduct is inexcusable.''

The request for hearings comes as King County Executive Ron Sims, a fellow Democrat and candidate for governor, has attacked her competence and integrity, specifically her failure to appeal an $18 million judgment against the state and allegedly tampering with an outside investigator's report on that failure. Both areas are included in the group's list of allegations.

The Republican-controlled Senate recently called for hearings in the matter. Gary Larson, a spokesman for Gregoire, called the request for an investigation ``just political and litigation mischief. It's outrageous.''

Ward and group President Wayde Staiger said they are motivated not by politics but by an effort to get a straight answer about what is going on in Gregoire's office.

Ward said the group is a nonpartisan organization made up of Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

The problem now, Ward said, is that any inquiry into Gregoire's actions has become so politicized that she can dismiss them without answering the charges.

``This is about responsibility, credibility and accountability of the attorney general,'' Ward said. ``We need the facts.''

Ward produced a ``sealed'' deposition taken of Gregoire early last month in connection with a lawsuit stemming from the missed deadline four years ago that led to the largest judgment in state history.

The lawsuit for wrongful termination was filed by former Assistant Attorney General Janet Capps who was targeted in the subsequent report for missing the deadline.

Ward said Gregoire had said publicly that the investigation of that missed appeal deadline was an independent inquiry -- but in a sworn statement, she indicated the report was edited ``in form and substance'' at her direction.

What is most disturbing, said Rick Zehner, another leader in the group, is that Gregoire has done illegal things and has been hiding behind her office.

Asked if proposed state Senate hearings would suffice, Ward said that any hearing on the matter must be done with sworn statements, and subpoena power to call witnesses and allow for cross-examinations.

``Just a regular hearing doesn't get us anywhere,'' Ward said.

Mike Archbold can be reached at mike.archbold@kingcountyjournal. com or 253-872-6647.



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