Board dismisses Benton's complaint against Inslee

He claimed Governor's decision tied to labor dispute broke the law

By Lauren Dake, Columbian political writer

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Ethics Board dismisses Benton complaint against Inslee

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Benton ethics complaint against Inslee

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Benton letter to Tom Mielke

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Republican Sen. Don Benton's ethics complaint against Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has been dismissed without a hearing.

Benton wrote a letter to the Executive Ethics Board last week claiming the governor broke the law by not allowing Washington State Patrol troopers to escort state grain inspectors across union picket lines at United Grain Corp.'s Vancouver facility.

The board responded Wednesday by saying it lacked jurisdiction over the complaint.

Kathryn Wyatt, acting executive director of the ethics board, wrote "the facts alleged do not appear to violate the substantive provisions of the Ethics in Public Service Act."

The labor dispute between United Grain Corp. and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers has continued for 17 months at the Port of Vancouver.

In June, the governor decided state troopers would no longer protect grain inspectors making their way through the picket lines. After the announcement, the state's Agriculture Department stopped sending grain inspectors to the facility. The state employees must inspect and certify the grain before it is exported.

Farmers and export groups have expressed concern about moving their product to overseas markets, but currently have other avenues while United Grain's facility in Vancouver is essentially shuttered.

The governor wrote in a letter at the end of July that it became clear after eight months of police presence that "keeping WSP escorts in place was not leading to productive negotiations, as intended."

David Postman, the governor's spokesman, wrote in an email Wednesday that Benton "got his name in the newspaper and Senate Republicans did their best to promote this frivolous and totally unsubstantiated complaint. It's unfortunate they couldn't have put their effort into doing something productive to find a real solution."

Benton did not return a call for comment.

The federal government decided this week it won't take over grain inspections at Vancouver because it isn't confident it can secure the safety of its employees.

Bargaining between the two groups, with assistance from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, is scheduled to continue Aug. 10 and 11.