State senator calls for transparency in letter to Employment Security

Aug 18, 2021, 2:24 PM
messages, Employment Security Department...
A sign at the headquarters for Washington state's Employment Security Department at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

In a letter he wrote to its commissioner, a state senator is calling on the Employment Security Department to increase transparency — and asking the agency not to hide any information from the public.

This comes after a woman who successfully sued the department over public records suggested there might be some destruction of records going on.

Enron whistleblower Lynn Brewer received $100,000 last month in her suit against ESD over the department’s failure to fulfill her public records request in a timely manner. She told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that more than a year later, she still has not received some of the records, including internal text messages between Governor Inslee and then-Commissioner Suzi LeVine — and she is beginning to think she knows why. An anonymous tipster claiming to work at the department told Brewer’s lawyer the department was planning to erase millions of internal chat messages.

Lynn Brewer explains that her public records requests at ESD are still going unanswered

Alarmed at this, Sen. Jeff Wilson (R-Longview) reached out to ESD Commissioner Cami Feek in a letter, asking if there truly was any destruction of text messages happening.

“All we need are good answers, not silence from a state agency,” Wilson told Dori.

Wilson said that in his experience, after last year’s bevy of problems at the department — including the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to a Nigerian fraud ring, and a backlog of people waiting for benefits — the department has not been forthcoming with information.

“If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to hide,” he said. “However, this agency already has a very troubled past — this is going to compound it.”

He says if the lack of transparency keeps up, he intends to pursue official action against the department with his colleagues in the Legislature.

“Besides the letter-writing and the demands, short of an inquiry or a hearing, that could be arranged if they continue to stall,” he said. “These laws and rules of public disclosure, they’re not to be played with. And clearly, even prior to the whistleblower, we now have a system where we’re being played a little bit.”

Wilson said if there is nothing nefarious going on, then ESD can easily clear up the confusion by being open.

“The ball is in the agency’s court how they would like to handle this,” Wilson said. “They have every opportunity to respond and to clearly lay out their thoughts on this in front of all of us.”

KIRO Radio has reached out to the Employment Security Department for comment.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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State senator calls for transparency in letter to Employment Security