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Originally published Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 5:36 PM

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GOP-leaning coalition pursuing leak investigation

A Republican-dominated coalition in the state Senate has decided to investigate how The Associated Press obtained documents that describe another instance of a lawmaker verbally attacking a staff member.

Associated Press

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OLYMPIA, Wash. —

A Republican-dominated coalition in the state Senate has decided to investigate how The Associated Press obtained documents that describe another instance of a lawmaker verbally attacking a staff member.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom said the chamber's Facilities and Operations Committee will handle what he described as an investigation with "limited" scope. Tom said he also opposes the public release of other documents related to complaints against GOP Sen. Pam Roach, saying the chamber needs to handle such personnel matters confidentially.

"One of the keys to that committee is that confidential records need to remain confidential," Tom said. "If we break that trust, then we no longer have that safe haven."

Other officials in the state Senate had indicated that they were working to release some Roach files in response to public records requests from the AP and The Seattle Times, and those requests remain unresolved. A new GOP-leaning coalition took control of the chamber earlier this week.

The investigation into the leak comes a day after a committee voted to lift sanctions against Roach. Those sanctions were levied against her in 2010 after the Facilities and Operations Committee investigated allegations that she had mistreated staff, and the committee reaffirmed those sanctions just four months ago as part of a legal settlement after senior Republican attorney Mike Hoover complained that he was subjected to a hostile and abusive workplace because of Roach.

Hoover, who now works in the state House, said Wednesday he was disappointed that the sanctions were lifted.

"It worries me more for the employees that remain than for myself," Hoover said.

The Facilities and Operations Committee on Tuesday night barred two reporters from attending the session. Republican Sen. Don Benton, who chairs the panel, confirmed that the sanctions against Roach had been lifted but refused to discuss deliberations after the meeting.

The panel lifted Roach's sanctions despite fresh documents that concluded Roach had again mistreated staff last year. In a story last week, the AP reported on documents that concluded Roach violated the Senate's workplace policies in March by verbally attacking a Senate Republican staffer charged with upholding sanctions against her.

Jason Mercier, who leads government reform efforts at the conservative Washington Policy Center, said he was concerned about how the Facilities and Operations Committee was barring public access to its activities.

"The committee had no obligation to allow the press and the public in," Mercier said. "But with the nature of what's being discussed, and the importance of it, if there isn't anything to hide, why wouldn't you want full access?"

Roach said the sanctions placed on her spawned from cutthroat politics and that she never knows what the accusations are or who is making them.

"This never should have happened in the first place," Roach said. She declined comment on the leak investigations, saying she was just learning about it.

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Mike Baker can be reached on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/HiPpEV. Associated Press writer Rachel La Corte contributed to this report.

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