Jolt axth2t

The GOP-controlled Washington state senate rules committee sent a state patrol officer to governor Jay Inslee this morning to serve him with a subpoena for all documents addressing why the Washington Department of Corrections released roughly 3,200 prison inmates each a few months early from 2002 to 2015 because of a computer programming error. Two deaths — one by murder and one by vehicular homicide—have been linked to the early releases.

Tuesday evening’s rules committee vote was split strictly along party lines.

Inslee and the Democrats say the senate law and justice committee is getting all those documents anyway—probably next week. “The act of issuing a subpoena suggests guilt and an unwillingness to comply,” grumbled senate minority leader Sharon Nelson ( D-34, West Seattle) before Tuesday’s vote.

The Republicans say they just don’t trust the governor to receive and release an undedited independent investigators report within the next two months. They just want to make sure nothing gets left out.  “The way it is being investigated behind closed doors, we won’t know unless an independent body looks at it,” said senate majority leader Mark Schoesler (9-Ritzville) on Tuesday.

Or maybe the GOP wants a freebie shot at a Democratic incumbent who's facing re-election in November.

The Republicans’ subpoena comes after being disappointed last week when the senate law and justice committee quizzed department of corrections secretary Dan Pacholke. Pacholke essentially told them that two investigators—appointed by Inslee—had just begun their probe into who screwed up on the early releases from 2002 to 2015, and more importantly, why were computer software upgrades on that glitch were delayed 16 times since 2012.

Right now, no one knows.

The GOP senators were ticked that answers weren’t ready last week, and decided to launch their own probe.

Inslee hopes the two investigators—former federal prosecutors who specialized in white collar crime (Robert Westinghouse and Carl Blackstone)—will have a report ready for public consumption in less than two months. The GOP senators complain that means the legislative session could end as scheduled on March 11 without the senators and representatives  knowing the results by that time.

Inslee has called the the Department of Corrections’ errors “maddening” and “mind-boggling” He publicly announced the mess on Dec. 22—one day after he found out about it. He noted that the public and legislatures did not have know the scandal until he made it public. He picked two veteran former federal prosecutors to conduct a methodical investigation. He said he won’t “edit” their report and will unveil it intact. He hopes to have that report before March 11.

All this has led to Inslee publicly wondering last week: What would the Republicans rather that he do? Not appoint trained investigators to figure out what went wrong?

“The fastest way to get to the bottom of this is to have two trained investigators instead of a political party. … in an election year,” Inslee said.

Republicans want to complete  their own investigation by March 11, but have acknowledged their probe could take longer.

Here’s what has happened so far. The law and justice committee chairman Sen. Mike Padden (R-4, Spokane Valley), asked Inslee on December 30 for all the public records on this issue. The Inslee administration said it will gather up the thousands of papers involved and send them to Padden's committee— a two to three-week task to accomplish logistically. That is not fast enough for the GOP leaders, and the two- or three-week delay is a contributing factor to why the Republicans went with a subpoena.

Next week, the law and justice committee will likely get the documents from their December 30 request, said Nick Brown, counsel to the governor. It is likely that the documents cements outlined in subpoena will be the same papers provided due to the non-subpoenaed December 30 request, administration officials said.

Then the law and justice committee will then have to figure out who it wants to interview. A couple people? Dozens of people? The governor, whom GOP leaders haven’t ruled out?

GOP leaders haven’t decided yet whether they will issue their own written report. They have not decided yet whether they will introduce any fix-it bills. It is too early to answer all those questions, Republican leaders said Tuesday.

March 11, the end of the session, will come up fast.

Inslee is stuck with the scandal. That’s what he gets for winning the 2012 gubernatorial election. It comes with the job. The buck stops with him. If  Republican candidate Rob McKenna won in November 2012, there’s a decent chance that the legislative Democrats might be trying to pin something on him.