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News / Northwest

Senator removed from task force after complaints

By Associated Press
Published: January 25, 2016, 7:49pm

OLYMPIA — Republican Sen. Pam Roach was kicked off of a legislative task force Monday following complaints that she verbally abused sex trafficking victims.

The Seattle Times reported that Democratic Lt. Gov. Brad Owen sent Roach a letter removing her from the Human Trafficking Task Force after he heard about her alleged conduct at a Dec. 14 panel meeting. Owen said that those who attended the meeting said that Roach made the victims feel “vilified and mocked.”

“You attacked agency staff, persons both present and absent, stakeholders and persons who have miraculously survived being victims of trafficking,” his letter read. “Among other fictions, you claimed that sexually trafficked and homeless youth are deliberately trying not to fit in with their families by tattooing their faces and getting piercings. Without any apparent basis, you minimized the exploitation of sexually trafficked minors by alleging that they probably spend their money on drugs, and asked if the labor trafficked persons were ‘illegals?’ Those comments “diminish the horrors of trafficking by attacking its victims and consequently erode support for the courageous efforts to combat it,” the letter read.

Roach of Sumner denied the allegations Monday and said that Owen was biased.

“The lieutenant governor is politically motivated and always has been,” she said.

Roach was banned from the Senate Republican Caucus in 2010 after leaders said she mistreated staff and recommended she get anger management counseling. She was later allowed back into caucus.

This is not the first time Owen, who also serves as the presiding officer overseeing the Senate, has admonished Roach. Last year, he sent her a letter related to her behavior in public hearings.