Chapter 190, Laws of 2013

63rd Legislature
2013 Regular Session



Passed by the Senate April 24, 2013
  YEAS 47   NAYS 0

President of the Senate
Passed by the House April 15, 2013
  YEAS 96   NAYS 1

Speaker of the House of Representatives


I, Hunter G. Goodman, Secretary of the Senate of the State of Washington, do hereby certify that the attached is ENGROSSED SUBSTITUTE SENATE BILL 5577 as passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives on the dates hereon set forth.

Approved May 8, 2013, 2:56 p.m.

Governor of the State of Washington
May 8, 2013

Secretary of State
State of Washington




Passed Legislature - 2013 Regular Session
State of Washington63rd Legislature2013 Regular Session

By Senate Human Services & Corrections (originally sponsored by Senator Carrell)

READ FIRST TIME 02/20/13.   

     AN ACT Relating to protecting public employees who act ethically and legally; amending RCW 42.52.410, 42.52.360, 42.52.420, 42.52.460, and 42.56.240; adding a new section to chapter 42.52 RCW; creating a new section; and prescribing penalties.


NEW SECTION.  Sec. 1   The legislature finds that ensuring public trust in government is a priority. The public expects its elected officials and state employees to adhere to the highest ethical standards during their service, and this includes a commitment to full and independent investigations, with proper penalties, in cases where the ethics in public service act is violated.

Sec. 2   RCW 42.52.410 and 1994 c 154 s 211 are each amended to read as follows:
     (1) A person may, personally or by his or her attorney, make, sign, and file with the appropriate ethics board a complaint on a form provided by the appropriate ethics board. The complaint shall state the name of the person alleged to have violated this chapter or rules adopted under it and the particulars thereof, and contain such other information as may be required by the appropriate ethics board.
     (2) If it has reason to believe that any person has been engaged or is engaging in a violation of this chapter or rules adopted under it, an ethics board may issue a complaint.
     (3)(a) A state employee who files a complaint with the appropriate ethics board shall be afforded the protection afforded to a whistleblower under RCW 42.40.050 and 49.60.210(2), subject to the limitations of RCW 42.40.035 and 42.40.910. An agency, manager, or supervisor may not retaliate against a state employee who, after making a reasonable attempt to ascertain the correctness of the information furnished, files a complaint with the appropriate ethics board.
     (b) A state employee may not be denied the protections in chapter 42.40 RCW even if the ethics board denies an investigation of the complaint.
     (4) If a determination is made that a reprisal or retaliatory action has been taken against the state employee, the retaliator may be subject to a civil penalty of up to five thousand dollars.

Sec. 3   RCW 42.52.360 and 2005 c 106 s 5 are each amended to read as follows:
     (1) The executive ethics board shall enforce this chapter and rules adopted under it with respect to statewide elected officers and all other officers and employees in the executive branch, boards and commissions, and institutions of higher education.
     (2) The executive ethics board shall enforce this chapter with regard to the activities of university research employees as provided in this subsection.
     (a) With respect to compliance with RCW 42.52.030, 42.52.110, 42.52.130, 42.52.140, and 42.52.150, the administrative process shall be consistent with and adhere to no less than the current standards in regulations of the United States public health service and the office of the secretary of the department of health and human services in Title 42 C.F.R. Part 50, Subpart F relating to promotion of objectivity in research.
     (b) With respect to compliance with RCW 42.52.040, 42.52.080, and 42.52.120, the administrative process shall include a comprehensive system for the disclosure, review, and approval of outside work activities by university research employees while assuring that such employees are fulfilling their employment obligations to the university.
     (c) With respect to compliance with RCW 42.52.160, the administrative process shall include a reasonable determination by the university of acceptable private uses having de minimis costs to the university and a method for establishing fair and reasonable reimbursement charges for private uses the costs of which are in excess of de minimis.
     (3) The executive ethics board shall:
     (a) Develop educational materials and training;
     (b) Adopt rules and policies governing the conduct of business by the board, and adopt rules defining working hours for purposes of RCW 42.52.180 and where otherwise authorized under chapter 154, Laws of 1994;
     (c) Issue advisory opinions;
     (d) Investigate, hear, and determine complaints by any person or on its own motion;
     (e) Impose sanctions including reprimands and monetary penalties;
     (f) Recommend to the appropriate authorities suspension, removal from position, prosecution, or other appropriate remedy; and
     (g) Establish criteria regarding the levels of civil penalties appropriate for violations of this chapter and rules adopted under it.
     (4) The board may:
     (a) Issue subpoenas for the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of documentary evidence relating to any matter under examination by the board or involved in any hearing;
     (b) Administer oaths and affirmations;
     (c) Examine witnesses; and
     (d) Receive evidence.
     (5) The board shall not delegate to the board's executive director its authority to issue advisories, advisory letters, or opinions.
Except as provided in RCW 42.52.220, the executive ethics board may review and approve agency policies as provided for in this chapter.
     (((6))) (7) This section does not apply to state officers and state employees of the judicial branch.

Sec. 4   RCW 42.52.420 and 2000 c 211 s 1 are each amended to read as follows:
     (1) After the filing of any complaint, except as provided in RCW 42.52.450, the staff of the appropriate ethics board shall investigate the complaint.
     ((The investigation shall be limited to the allegations contained in the complaint.)) The ethics board may request the assistance of the office of the attorney general or a contract investigator in conducting its investigation.
     (2) The results of the investigation shall be reduced to writing and the staff shall either make a determination that the complaint should be dismissed pursuant to RCW 42.52.425, or recommend to the board that there is or that there is not reasonable cause to believe that a violation of this chapter or rules adopted under it has been or is being committed.
     (3) The board's determination on reasonable cause shall be provided to the complainant and to the person named in such complaint.
     (4) The identity of a person filing a complaint under RCW 42.52.410(1) is exempt from public disclosure, as provided in RCW 42.56.240.

Sec. 5   RCW 42.52.460 and 1994 c 154 s 216 are each amended to read as follows:
     Any person who has notified the appropriate ethics board and the attorney general in writing that there is reason to believe that RCW 42.52.180 is being or has been violated may, in the name of the state, bring a citizen action for any of the actions authorized under this chapter. A citizen action may be brought only if the appropriate ethics board or the attorney general have failed to commence an action under this chapter within forty-five days after notice from the person, the person has thereafter notified the appropriate ethics board and the attorney general that the person will commence a citizen's action within ten days upon their failure to commence an action, and the appropriate ethics board and the attorney general have in fact failed to bring an action within ten days of receipt of the second notice. An action is deemed to have been commenced when the appropriate ethics board or the board's executive director accepts a complaint for filing and initiates a preliminary investigation.
     If the person who brings the citizen's action prevails, the judgment awarded shall escheat to the state, but the person shall be entitled to be reimbursed by the state of Washington for costs and attorneys' fees incurred. If a citizen's action that the court finds was brought without reasonable cause is dismissed, the court may order the person commencing the action to pay all costs of trial and reasonable attorneys' fees incurred by the defendant.
     Upon commencement of a citizen action under this section, at the request of a state officer or state employee who is a defendant, the office of the attorney general shall represent the defendant if the attorney general finds that the defendant's conduct complied with this chapter and was within the scope of employment.

NEW SECTION.  Sec. 6   A new section is added to chapter 42.52 RCW to read as follows:
     (1) Each executive branch agency shall designate an ethics advisor or advisors to assist the agency's employees in understanding their obligations under the ethics in public service act. Agencies shall inform the executive ethics board of their designated advisors. As funding permits and as determined by the executive ethics board and the agency head, the advisors shall receive regular ethics training.
     (2) Executive branch officers and employees are encouraged to attend ethics training offered by the executive ethics board at least once every thirty-six months.

Sec. 7   RCW 42.56.240 and 2012 c 88 s 1 are each amended to read as follows:
     The following investigative, law enforcement, and crime victim information is exempt from public inspection and copying under this chapter:
     (1) Specific intelligence information and specific investigative records compiled by investigative, law enforcement, and penology agencies, and state agencies vested with the responsibility to discipline members of any profession, the nondisclosure of which is essential to effective law enforcement or for the protection of any person's right to privacy;
     (2) Information revealing the identity of persons who are witnesses to or victims of crime or who file complaints with investigative, law enforcement, or penology agencies, other than the commission, if disclosure would endanger any person's life, physical safety, or property. If at the time a complaint is filed the complainant, victim, or witness indicates a desire for disclosure or nondisclosure, such desire shall govern. However, all complaints filed with the commission about any elected official or candidate for public office must be made in writing and signed by the complainant under oath;
     (3) Any records of investigative reports prepared by any state, county, municipal, or other law enforcement agency pertaining to sex offenses contained in chapter 9A.44 RCW or sexually violent offenses as defined in RCW 71.09.020, which have been transferred to the Washington association of sheriffs and police chiefs for permanent electronic retention and retrieval pursuant to RCW 40.14.070(2)(b);
     (4) License applications under RCW 9.41.070; copies of license applications or information on the applications may be released to law enforcement or corrections agencies;
     (5) Information revealing the identity of child victims of sexual assault who are under age eighteen. Identifying information means the child victim's name, address, location, photograph, and in cases in which the child victim is a relative or stepchild of the alleged perpetrator, identification of the relationship between the child and the alleged perpetrator;
     (6) The statewide gang database referenced in RCW 43.43.762;
     (7) Data from the electronic sales tracking system established in RCW 69.43.165;
     (8) Information submitted to the statewide unified sex offender notification and registration program under RCW 36.28A.040(6) by a person for the purpose of receiving notification regarding a registered sex offender, including the person's name, residential address, and e-mail address; ((and))
     (9) Personally identifying information collected by law enforcement agencies pursuant to local security alarm system programs and vacation crime watch programs. Nothing in this subsection shall be interpreted so as to prohibit the legal owner of a residence or business from accessing information regarding his or her residence or business; and
     (10) The identity of a state employee or officer who has in good faith filed a complaint with an ethics board, as provided in RCW 42.52.410, or who has in good faith reported improper governmental action, as defined in RCW 42.40.020, to the auditor or other public official, as defined in RCW 42.40.020

         Passed by the Senate April 24, 2013.
         Passed by the House April 15, 2013.
         Approved by the Governor May 8, 2013.
         Filed in Office of Secretary of State May 8, 2013.