Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, released the following statement in response to the decision of the Senate Rules Committee to issue subpoenas to the Department of Corrections and the governor’s office.
The Rules Committee took a bipartisan 13-7 vote Tuesday evening to support a request for subpoenas from the Senate Law and Justice Committee. The Law and Justice Committee plans an inquiry into the Department of Corrections’ release of some 3,200 violent felons before their sentences were complete. Police reports indicate at least two people were killed by former prisoners who should have been serving time, and numerous other crimes were committed. Corrections officials acknowledge they knew of the problem three years ago, but continued to release prisoners. The initial subpoenas seek records that might shed light on the case.
“This was an historic decision by the Senate Rules Committee, but I wish it had not been necessary,” Schoesler said. “It is prompted by a case of state-government mismanagement that should appall every citizen of Washington. We owe it to the people of this state to find out who is responsible, and why this sort of behavior was considered acceptable.
“The governor has launched an investigation, as he should. No one is criticizing the governor for hiring investigators to find out what went wrong at his agency. But this does not supersede the Legislature’s responsibility to get at the truth. We are equals in government, and we have a duty to the people as well.
“We think it important that the Legislature’s inquiry be on the record, under oath, with records available for public inspection. The people expect no less. The governor’s team has chosen a different methodology. But his investigators assure us that our use of subpoena power for written records will not impede their work.
“I hope we don’t have to issue more subpoenas when we summon people to testify. I hope people will come forward voluntarily. These problems at DOC have persisted for such a long time I suspect there will be many who will be interested in talking about them. If there is nothing to hide, our inquiry should cause no problems.
“We have a pledge of cooperation from the governor’s office and the Department of Corrections, and I hope we see it.”