Upcoming Conference | 2019 Re-Wire Policy Conference, Dec 10, 2019 Register

State Senate committee approves hiring independent investigator to look into Fain allegation

Two weeks ago, the Wire’s DJ Wilson wrote about the parallels and differences between two cases in which Washington State legislators are facing allegations of misconduct. One of the legislators, Rep. Matt Manweller, agreed to resign if re-elected, following an independent investigation by his employer (Central Washington University) and mounting pressure from Republican House leadership.

The second legislator was Sen. Joe Fain. On September 27, Candace Faber tweeted that Fain raped her the night she graduated from Georgetown in 2007. Her allegation came shortly after the Kavanaugh hearings, which Faber said motivated her to come forward.

In Manweller’s case, his employer was able to investigate. But in Fain’s case, a path forward was unclear.

“In the case of Joe Fain, there is no obvious body charged with independent investigative authority that can review this matter,” Wilson wrote two weeks ago. “There isn’t a CWU equivalent in this case, or employer that otherwise had liability for Fain’s action’s under state or federal labor law. Moreover, the accuser, Ms. Faber, is not willing to file charges in Washington DC against Mr. Fain. So, not even the police are able to investigate this.”

This morning, the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee approved a special budget authorization to hire an independent investigator to look into the allegation. Sens. Nelson and Schoesler issued a statement announcing the decision:

“Since the time Ms. Faber went public, advocates and elected officials, Republicans and Democrats, and Ms. Faber herself, have all called for an investigation into her allegation.

The Senate has grappled with an appropriate institutional response. The allegation pre-dates Sen. Fain’s time in the Legislature and therefore falls outside standard procedures for an allegation of this nature.

We feel that the hiring of an independent third party provides the most potential for a fair, non-partisan and comprehensive outcome that is satisfactory to everyone involved.”

In the committee’s morning meeting, Secretary of the Senate Brad Hendrickson said that both parties — Fain and Faber — had previously agreed to participate in an investigation, and that they would be notified as soon as possible about the decision to move ahead.

“This is absolutely unprecedented,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson said the list of potential investigators has been narrowed down to two finalists and that there needs to be a bipartisan consensus on who is ultimately chosen for the job, as to avoid “politicizing” the situation. The committee’s current goal is to have the investigation finished by December 14th and no later than December 31st.

When the investigation is finished, Hendrickson said he expects that — at the least — an executive summary will be made public. If not, he said, it would be “awkward to say the least.”

In the meantime, Sen. Fain is in a tight race for re-election in the 47th Legislative District. Just 90 votes separate him from Mona Das, the Democratic challenger. If he does not win re-election, committee members said they will revisit their current plan.