As of Monday, February 8, 2016
OLYMPIA Gov. Jay Inslee lost two cabinet members in a span of 24 hours last weekend.
Department of Corrections Secretary Dan Pacholke resigned Saturday, a day after the Senate’s decision not to confirm Department of Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson.
Pacholke resigns as the state deals with a computer glitch that freed more than 3,000 state inmates early over a period of 13 years.
In his resignation letter to Inslee, Pacholke cited partisan politics as his reason for leaving the agency.
“It is my hope that with this resignation, the politicians who would use this tragic event for their political purposes will have satisfied their need for blood,” Pacholke wrote. “The shaming and blaming needs to end. It exposes ignorance of the complexity of the work of state government and it is a grave injustice to the 8,200 staff who work for this agency.”
On Friday, the Senate by a vote of 25-21 rejected Peterson’s appointment. Inslee named her to the post in 2013.
The agency has taken heat for project delays and overruns, as well as the controversial toll system installed last year on Interstate 405.
“I and many other thought she was not qualified when she was appointed,” Sen. Jim Honeyford of Sunnyside said.
“Not all of the problems originated in her tenure,” he continued. “We’ve had problems tolling and the final straw for me was the problems on 405. To me it is a matter of transparency and responsibility of the agency.”
Inslee defended Peterson, claiming the Senate decision was based on partisanship.
“Senate Republicans took an action wholly unfitting of the expectations of the people of this state,” he said. “They engaged in a politically-motivated attack on an eminently qualified woman.”
Inslee also took aim at one Republican senator’s claim that Peterson is a racist for not hiring enough minority-owned businesses for state transportation projects.
“This personal insult, uttered in the Senate chambers, is simply inexcusable,” Inslee said. “We can only wonder what the Senate Republicans’ next politically motivated attack will be.”
Bill Bryant, a Republican challenger for governor this November, supported the Senate’s decision to reject Peterson.
“The Senate took the extraordinary step of removing Inslee’s secretary of transportation who proved unable to manage multi-billion dollar mega projects,” Bryant said. “Gov. Inslee called the move in the Senate ‘shameful.’ What’s shameful is the traffic jams the governor and the secretary of transportation has put Washington drivers in daily.”