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State GOP leaders slam Inslee, former DOC chief over mistaken early release of prisoners

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OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Gov. Jay Inslee and his staff are under renewed criticism for the mistaken early release of over 3,000 prisoners in recent years, some of whom have gone on to commit other crimes.

A harsh new report from Republican leaders in the state Senate lays the blame for scandal with the former head of the Department of Corrections, Bernie Warner, and with his personal relationship with the governor’s chief of staff.

“Mr. Warner grossly mismanaged this department,” said Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Tacoma.

The early release problem stems from a computer glitch that miscalculated sentences as far back as 2002.  It was discovered in 2012, but nothing was done until the governor found out about it late last year.

Senate leaders claim DOC computer systems weren’t a high priority.

“Six different CIOs during Mr. Warner’s administration -- that in and of itself is an indication that we had a poor executive at the top of DOC,” O'Ban said.

Also to blame, the report argues, was a personal relationship between Warner and Inslee's former chief of staff.

“It’s entirely predictable that a relationship between a member of the Governor’s staff and the DOC Secretary could have inhibited lower-echelon DOC officials from bringing up to the Governor’s attention this pattern mismanagement.”

O'Ban admits, however, that there was no solid proof that the relationship was a personal factor.

Earlier this year, the governor’s office issued its own investigation into the problem, which led to a handful of resignations and personnel changes at DOC.

On Wednesday, Inslee’s spokesperson, Jaime Smith, issued a harsh response to this new report.

“The Senate Republicans have now adopted an odd fascination with Mr. Warner’s personal life and had they even bothered to ask us about this we could have told them that we had established a series of checks to ensure no conflicts of interest with our office. They spent $125,000 of taxpayer dollars on a clearly partisan effort that is already being used for political purposes.”

The GOP report calls for an independent ombudsman and protection for whistle-blowers.

Warner served as the head of DOC from 2011 until last fall when he resigned, a few months before the early release problem was brought to the attention of the governor.