State Legislative Ethics Board dismisses complaint against Rep. Blake

OLYMPIA — The state Legislative Ethics Board has dismissed a complaint against state Rep. Brian Blake after he allegedly “cut-off citizen testimony and was rude and interruptive,” according to the letter from Ethics Board Chairman Kristine F. Hoover.

The complaint was dismissed on Oct. 10 and released to the public on Oct. 13.

“It was clear it wouldn’t be upheld was frivolous,” said Blake, D-Aberdeen, who chairs the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee in the House. “They are all welcome to testify on legislation in the future but it’s critical when we have a bill hearing that they testify to the bill’s being heard. Committee bill hearings are not forums for political attacks. It’s important to me when we’re having a bill hearing that the testimony is meant to produce light and not heat.”

Blake was presiding over a public hearing in February for legislation he co-sponsored to expand geoduck research and create the Shellfish Aquaculture Public Information Center through the University of Washington to serve as a single point of contact for the public regarding aquaculture permitting issues, questions about violations, and debris cleanup, according to a House Bill Report. The legislation never made it out of committee.

Three opponents to the legislation filed a formal complaint with the Legislative Ethics Board alleging Blake “showed favoritism to supporters of the bill under consideration,violated (the opponents’) rights to freedom of speech and violated a rule of the House.”

One of those complaining wrote to the Ethics board that there was a small audience in the hearing room and a short agenda and Blake was “relentless,” even calling security at one point.

After telling those gathered to testify on the bill that they’d be allowed three minutes, Blake turned off the opponents’ microphones before the allotted time was up. Blake also interrupted their testimony, according to the Ethics Board. “No provisions of the Act are cited in support of the claims of unethical behavior,” Hoover’s letter states.

“The Act does not grant the Board jurisdiction to adjudicate constitutional issues (citations omitted),” the letter adds. “The claim that a constitutional right to freedom of speech was violated in this case is dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.”