OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee said today that a series of disciplinary actions and resignations among current and former managers at the Department of Corrections are necessary to ensure accountability and to allow DOC to rebuild trust with the people of Washington state.
Inslee released a report on Feb. 25 by two former federal prosecutors who conducted an external investigation into the repeated delays for fixing sentencing miscalculations that date back to 2002. The report outlined systemic failures at DOC as well as failures by individual DOC staff. The governor has said that DOC will implement all the changes recommended in the report.
In addition to two resignations prior to completion of the report, personnel actions announced today include a resignation, two demotions and two letters of reprimand.
“There is no doubt that the utter lack of urgency and awareness about this issue starts with the people at the top,” Inslee said. “Directors and supervisors are ultimately the people we rely on to set expectations and establish the systems that ensure their teams fulfill the core mission of their organization. These individuals failed to do in 2012 what was done in 2015 – recognize the scope of the problem and act with all due urgency to immediately fix the problem.”
The investigation included questions about the leadership of former Secretary Bernie Warner. Warner resigned last fall before the governor learned of the early release mistake.
“Given the tragic consequences of this error, there is no question that Secretary Warner would have lost his job,” Inslee said. “But there are others who share responsibility for the series of mistakes the investigators found.”
Investigators say the highest ranking official to know of the early release was an assistant secretary who oversaw the DOC division responsible for the programming work. That official resigned shortly before the report was completed. An assistant attorney general who investigators said provided “seriously flawed” legal advice about the programming error has also stepped down.
Today, Inslee announced the department’s former chief information officer has resigned from his position at WaTech, the state’s central IT services agency. DOC’s risk manager was effectively demoted and has reversion rights to another position at DOC. The former business manager at DOC has also been demoted to another position at DOC and the IT business analyst and senior records manager were issued letters of reprimand.
“Because there was no one person or one error that resulted in this failure, there is no one person who can bear full responsibility,” Inslee said. “This is a sobering reminder to every worker, every supervisor and every manager and director in state government that paying attention, speaking up and taking action are absolutely essential. The work we do matters. In some cases it’s a matter of life or death.”
Inslee said these accountability actions and the systemic reforms are all essential to DOC’s work to rebuild trust. That means ensuring DOC moves forward under the leadership of someone recognized and respected for his or her experience and competence.
Inslee also announced today that he has appointed Dick Morgan to serve as acting secretary. Morgan worked at DOC for more than 30 years. He started his career as a corrections officer and retired in 2010 as director of prisons. He has also served as superintendent of the Clallam Bay Corrections Center, Washington State Penitentiary and McNeil Island Corrections Center. Morgan is the third of four generations in his family to work in corrections. His appointment is effective March 14, 2016.
Morgan replaces Dan Pacholke who announced his retirement last month. The investigators reported Pacholke had no knowledge or responsibility of the programming error.
Inslee said as reforms are implemented at DOC and additional information becomes known about the sentencing error or other mission-critical failures, he will continue to work with the external investigators and staff to determine whether additional accountability measures are needed.