Politics & Government

Sen. Pam Roach giving up state-paid phone and mailbox

Under scrutiny over expenses she charged to state government, state Sen. Pam Roach this week paid back $680 and promised to give up her Senate-paid phone and mailbox.

Roach may end up refunding thousands of dollars once questions of mileage are settled.

“I’m doing what I can to make sure there are no questions whatsoever,” Roach said. “If it means I’m going to be paying back a couple thousand dollars ... I’m just going to do that.”

The money still in question involves the mileage reimbursement Roach receives each time she drives the 22-mile round trip from her rural home to the Auburn post office. Over the past three years alone, she has recorded more than 300 trips.

The problem is that she receives legislative, personal and campaign mail at the same post office box. Another possible intersection between public, private and campaign expenses: The Senate paid Roach’s phone bills and for her purchase of at least two phones.

Allies of Enumclaw Rep. Cathy Dahlquist have raised the expenses as an issue in the Senate contest between the two Republicans, which also includes a third candidate running as a Democrat, Lynda Messner of Bonney Lake. Roach has maintained the Senate should have told her if any expenses were not allowable.

Roach delivered four blank checks to the Capitol Tuesday and agreed to have the Senate fill in three of them: $118 for renting the mailbox, $378.75 for purchasing the phones and $183.12 for a February trip to Salem, Ore., for which mileage was inflated through an apparent clerical error. But Roach raised questions about an amount the Senate suggested for the fourth check for mileage to the mailbox.

One area where the Senate is not suggesting Roach pay back any money: the thousands of dollars in cell phone bills she charged to the state. Officials say the Senate operates on the honor system and it's up to Roach to characterize how much of the bill is for legislative business.

Roach had submitted entire bills for reimbursement. But from now on, she said she won’t charge the state for phone use. She urged other senators to do the same.

“I will not be submitting anything for any cell phones again,” she said.