State Sen. Mike Carrell wants to fire Belinda Stewart from her job with the Department of Corrections for violating rules regarding the use of resources.
Stewart is a former prison superintendent and communications director. She is now in charge of prison visitations, volunteers, and matters of gender and religion. In February 2013, she was fined by the State Ethics Board after the board concluded that she used state resources on behalf of a federal corrections agency and a nonprofit group to help released prison inmates. The Executive Ethics Board fined Stewart $17,000 with $3,600 suspended.
The findings are certainly not becoming of a seasoned state employee accustomed to operating in high-profile leadership positions. And the findings raise questions about the department’s management of employee ethics.
But the review, findings and penalties issued by the Ethics Board do not meet the satisfaction of Sen. Mike Carrell R-Lakewood. Oddly enough, Carrell is responsible for filing several ethics complaints against Stewart.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
In a letter from Carrell to DOC Secretary Bernie Warner, who is Stewart’s boss, Carrell demands Stewart’s termination and says, “It is vital that you send a strong message to the department and to the public that state government takes ethics responsibilities and oversight very seriously, whether rank and file or management.”
On Carrell’s webpage he also comments that Stewart “is clearly lacking in good judgment and should be treated the same as any rank-and-file employee who breaks the law.”
Carrell fails to notice that the Ethics Board did treat Stewart like any rank-and-file employee and that the process, in many ways, is intended to be fair regardless of positions and avoid political witch hunts. Furthermore, his request as a legislator encroaches on executive branch responsibilities for hiring and firing of staff.
We wonder why Carrell does not issue an equally harsh statement in regard to the numerous findings concerning fellow Republican state Sen. Pam Roach?
Readers will recall that Roach has repeatedly violated Senate workplace policy. Numerous formal and costly reports, investigations, complaints, lawsuits and settlements have documented these violations.
The Senate issued sanctions and banned Roach from interacting with staff and the Republican Caucus in 2010. A new report in 2012 found that she verbally attacked a senate staffer charged with upholding the sanctions against her.
But, when the Legislature convened this year, the new majority coalition caucus, which includes Carrell, chose to lift the sanctions imposed on Roach.
The type of violations of hostile workplace policies committed by Roach typically result in termination in most employment situations. However, elected officials such as Roach are hard to fire and typically resign under pressure when found guilty of improper actions.
If we are to take Carrell’s concerns about workplace ethics and the treatment of employees and managers seriously, he should also be calling for the resignation of Roach.
Roach is clearly lacking in good judgment and should be treated the same as any rank-and-file employee who breaks workplace policies.
Carrell could send a strong message to his elected colleagues and the public that the state Senate takes ethics and workplace policies very seriously and call for the resignation of Roach.
To do less would imply some political inconsistencies in his application of state rules and policies.