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Friday, March 1, 2024
March 1, 2024

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Mystery surrounds suspension of GOP Senate aide Hinton

The Columbian

Kelly Hinton, the controversial ex-aide to state legislators Marc Boldt and Don Benton, has been suspended without pay after three weeks as an assistant to a GOP senator.

Senate Secretary Milt Doumit confirmed the suspension but declined to comment on the reason or prospects of Hinton returning to work.

“It’s a Senate personnel matter (that is) under review,” Doumit said Thursday.

Hinton, reached in Olympia by The Columbian, said he has no comment now but added, “call me next week.”

His boss, Sen. Pam Roach, R-Sumner, was outraged. She said two security guards came to her office Wednesday and told Hinton to leave.

“The Senate’s not going to be telling (me) who my aides are,” she said, adding that she hopes to rehire Hinton today.

“He knows the system backwards and forwards,” she said. “He can write really well. Kelly is a good man.”

But Roach didn’t shed much light on other elements apparently involved in Hinton’s suspension, including the departure of two other Roach aides, concerns about misuse of Senate e-mail and a report that Roach had brandished a gun near a staffer.

Cloudy connections

Thursday’s News Tribune of Tacoma reported Hinton’s suspension was somehow linked to a Senate probe into the departure on Jan. 14 of two other Roach aides, Tabitha Wells and Dan Honkomp. Hinton, 47, was hired by Roach the same day for the $3,291 a month job.

Senate Majority Leader James West, R-Spokane, has said there is an inquiry into their departures.

The News Tribune also said Wells is said to have “confided in co-workers that Roach had (once) pulled a gun on her” at Roach’s house. Roach has denied the aide’s account.

According to the newspaper and The Associated Press, Roach said last week that she had been trying to track down the source of the gun report when she retrieved private e-mails from the computers of Senate staffers.

She reportedly found messages that were “questionable” and turned them over to Doumit’s office.

But this week, Roach told the News Tribune it was Hinton who had retrieved the e-mails.

She told The Columbian the saga stems from her discovery of “severe abuse” of the computer system within the Republican caucus, which she said she reported to the secretary of the Senate.

“I guess I thought there would be an investigation,” she said.”Instead, there’s a shutdown of my office.”

Controversial history

Legislative aides typically are background players, but Hinton has been a lightning rod for controversy.

As legislative aide to state Rep. Marc Boldt, R-Hockinson, in the mid-1990s Hinton gained notoriety for letters he wrote to constituents that critics said were harsh.

In 2000, as aide to Sen. Don Benton, R-Pleasant Valley, when Benton was also state Republican Party chairman, Benton tried to make Hinton the party’s executive director.

Such appointments are usually a slam-dunk for party chiefs, but the state Republican executive committee refused to confirm the appointment.

For more than two years, until mid-2001, Hinton developed something of a separate identity as a frequent conservative political commentator, getting numerous letters to the editor published under the fictitious name “Kage McClued.”