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Washington lawmaker facing ethics violations resigning

A state representative is resigning this week following allegations of falsified travel expense forms, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the House chief clerk.

Rep. Susan Fagan resigning her seat effective Friday, according to a written statement issued by House Clerk Barbara Baker. Fagan was elected to the chamber in a special election in 2009, and she was re-elected in 2012.

A home number for Fagan rang unanswered Wednesday, but in a prepared statement released to the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Fagan said she was resigning “with a sad heart.”

“I should have been more precise with my records, and I did not give my reimbursement reports the respect and attention they deserve. That is my fault,” she wrote. “At no point did I try to derive personal gain from expense reimbursements.”

Baker says that she was presented with evidence last fall that there were discrepancies in Fagan’s travel reimbursement forms.

In meetings between House leadership and Fagan, the Pullman Republican denied wrongdoing and cited bookkeeping errors but said she would pay back overpayments, Baker wrote.

An investigation by the state’s Legislative Ethics Board was launched in January, after Baker sent a letter stating concerns brought to House Republican leadership by legislative assistants. Allegations included that Fagan claimed expenses for fake or nonexistent events, that she claimed more mileage than actually driven, that she sought reimbursement for campaign-related activity and that she directed her assistants to change expense reports.

“Last week, we learned that the preliminary investigation of the complaint substantiated the allegations that Rep. Fagan knowingly falsified her reimbursement forms,” Baker wrote.

Republican leadership met with Fagan on Friday to ask her to resign. In addition to resigning, Fagan has agreed to pay any remaining funds due back to the state, Baker wrote.

In an email, Baker wrote the total amount of money involved is not yet known and won’t be until the legislative ethics board finishes its investigation.

In the letter she sent to the ethics board earlier this year, Baker wrote that over a 10-month period, “the total overpayments appeared to run into several thousand dollars and perhaps more.”

House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, a Republican from Snohomish, said that that Fagan’s resignation and plan to reimburse the state is the “appropriate course of action and in the best interest of taxpayers.”

“Her misuse of state travel and reimbursement funds is a serious breach of public trust,” Kristiansen wrote in a prepared statement.

In a written statement, House Speaker Frank Chopp said that he was disappointed by Fagan’s actions.

“It’s become clear that discrepancies in her reimbursement forms are more than just clerical errors,” wrote Chopp, a Democrat from Seattle. “The Legislative Ethics Board will continue its investigation, and at some point will decide what other actions are appropriate in this case.”