OLYMPIA — State Sen. Pam Roach will reimburse Washington more than $4,500 for mileage she charged to pick up mail at a post office box where she received both legislative and campaign mail, a newspaper reported.
Roach, a Republican from Auburn, charged taxpayers for hundreds of trips since 2009 to pick up mail at the Auburn post office box 22 miles from her rural home, The Seattle Times reported Saturday.
Roach told Senate administrators in an email that she rented the box 25 years ago because her mail had been stolen from her home mailbox. In response, Senate Secretary Hunter Goodman said the chamber's rules clearly prohibit the mingling of campaign and official state business.
"I can certainly appreciate your frustration," Goodman wrote. "However, once you used your office funds to pay for the post office box, that box became entirely off-limits for campaign use."
Last week, Roach refunded additional expenses totaling more than $900 for Senate-purchased cellphones she used partly for campaigning, an accidental double charge for mileage for a trip to Oregon, and rental fees for the post office box.
Senate attorney Keith Buchholz praised Roach for being "direct and responsive" in resolving the issues, nothing that Roach was saving taxpayers $5,000 a year by not maintaining a district office in Auburn.
"Had she maintained the office in Auburn, the question of mileage reimbursement would likely not be an issue today," he said.
Roach complained that the Senate had not caught the discrepancies and alerted her to the problems earlier.
"We cannot catch everything," Roach wrote in an email to Buchholz, which was copied to reporters. "And, it is not good policy to rely on political campaigns to find things, as you suggest."
Allies of Enumclaw Rep. Cathy Dahlquist have raised the expenses as an issue in the Senate's 31st District primary race between the two Republicans.