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The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

August 6, 2014 at 5:24 PM

Ethics board drops complaint against Inslee over grain inspections

The ethics complaint filed by Sen. Don Benton (R-17) against Gov. Jay Inslee over State Patrol escorts for grain inspectors is officially kaput.

The Executive Ethics Board on Wednesday dropped the complaint Benton filed last week alleging Inslee acted unlawfully when he withdrew state patrol escorts of grain inspectors going into the Port of Vancouver.

Workers for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have been locked out of the port over a long-running contract dispute with United Grain Corp. Inslee in October directed Washington State Patrol troopers to escort grain inspectors, who are needed to certify export shipments. The move came after an inspector filed a police report alleging harassment by members of the picket line. Since the governor withdrew the escorts in early July, grain inspectors have not been going into the port, hindering the port’s ability to ship grain.

Among other things, Benton alleged that Inslee was “using his executive authority in an attempt to force a private corporation to negotiate with a labor union.”

But Kathryn Wyatt, the ethics board’s acting director, didn’t bite at the complaint. In a letter Tuesday, Wyatt wrote that Inslee’s actions “do not appear to violate the substantive provisions of the Ethics in Public Service Act.”

She added the board did not have jurisdiction over the matter.

David Postman, Inslee’s communications director, called it unfortunate that Benton didn’t find a more productive way to help reach a solution on the labor dispute.

“Don Benton got his name in the newspaper and Senate Republicans did their best to promote this frivolous and totally unsubstantiated complaint,” Postman wrote in an email.

United Grain Corp. is scheduled to ship 17 million bushels in August, and the lack of inspectors is beginning to send delays rippling back as far as the Great Plains, where the products are grown, a spokesman for the company has said.

Jennifer Sargent, spokeswoman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said the negotiating groups meeting over the weekend made progress and are scheduled to meet again Sunday and Monday.

Comments | More in Governor, State government | Topics: agriculture, Don Benton, Jay Inslee

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