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Attorney General’s Office accused of impeding WSU ethics investigation in ‘wider conspiracy’

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(The Center Square) – The Washington Attorney General’s Office has been accused of trying to squash an ethical complaint investigation made against two Washington State University, or WSU, employees as part of a request for proposal put out by the AGO.

The allegations have been made by Police Strategies President Bob Scales, a former prosecutor for King County who intended to subcontract with several universities potentially bidding on the RFP to create a public police use of force database under SB 5259. The accusations and circumstances surrounding the ethics investigation underscore the close ties between the AGO and WSU, which is one of its clients.

In March, Scales made ethical complaints to WSU Provost Elizabeth Chilton against Associate Professor David Makin, who wrote the university’s proposal for the RFP, and the university’s Director of State Relations, Chris Mulick. Scales alleged that they both sought to obtain confidential information from the AGO about the RFP’s release and the timeframe when proposals needed to be submitted.

On April 11, WSU President Kirk Schultz wrote a letter to Scales stating no investigation would occur. Several weeks later, Chilton contacted Scales and said they would investigate the matter. As of this week, the university is still investigating Scales’ claims.

Under the university’s faculty manual, the provost handles ethics complaints.

Emails obtained by The Center Square show that Schultz was in communication with Nathan Deen, the division chief for the WSU Division of the attorney general’s office, regarding Scales’ ethics complaints. Deen was initially notified of Scales’ complaint when it was forwarded to him that same day by WSU Vice Provost for Academic Administration and Provost Chief of Staff Kristina Peterson-Wilson.

Deen was also cc’d on the email Schultz sent to Scales. Other than the subject line, the emails’ content was redacted under attorney-client privilege.

Scales argued in an email to The Center Square that Deen actually wrote the letter for Schultz to send.

“Basically Deen used the President as his patsy to try and quash my complaint,” he wrote in an email. “The fact is that Deen is calling all the shots for WSU, not the President or the Provost.”

“This is part of a wider conspiracy and coverup of an illegal and unethical public procurement process conducted by the AGO,” Scales wrote in a separate email. “All of these shenanigans are being funded using state tax dollars.”

In an email to The Center Square regarding Deen’s involvement in the WSU ethics complaint and whether the AGO had a role in crafting Schultz’s letter, AGO Communications Director Brionna Aho wrote that “if your question is whether the AGO WSU Division Chief is legal counsel to WSU, I can confirm that they are. Beyond that, ethics rules prohibit me from commenting on legal advice between our agency and our clients.”

In an email to WSU’s Board of Regents, who are legally represented by the AGO, Scales wrote that “WSU is facing significant risk with this matter. Not only have ethics rules been violated, but there has been an attempted coverup by the WSU President who is working in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Office. WSU should hire an independent attorney who can fully investigate both my complaint as well as the unlawful process WSU used in an attempt to quash my complaint. WSU should also examine the current contract negotiations with the AGO for the $15 million project.”

When The Center Square contacted the WSU Board of Regents for comment on Schulz’s letter, University Marketing and Communications Vice President Phil Weiler wrote that “at this time, the Board of Regents has no plans to become involved in the various claims being made by Mr. Scales.”

Last year, the Board of Regents hired former AGO senior assistant attorney general and WSU Division chief Danielle Hess as its new executive director for policy and governance.

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