Inslee tries to reassure public as 2 state agencies lose leaders

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday sought to reassure the public that two of that state’s most important agencies will soon get permanent leaders.

“We do have acting leadership now,” Inslee said at a morning press conference.  “Good things are happening.”

Last week, GOP lawmakers fired the state's transportation secretary.  A day later, there was the abrupt resignation of the embattled head of the Department of Corrections.  Both leaders had come under fire for huge problems under their watch, including tolling problems on I-405 and the erroneous early release of state prisoners.

Their departures leave big holes in state government, and big questions about Inslee’s own leadership style.

“Why is it that taxpayers continue to pay hundreds of millions of dollars of their hard-earned money for delays and mistakes in one agency,” said Rep. Dan Kristiansen (House Republican Leader) about the problems at the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The governor tried to make clear that he is on top of the problems at both agencies, and that he is already interviewing new leaders.  In the meantime, he argues, reform is happening.

“The Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans to help improve the 405 tolling corridor,” Inslee said.  “I’m very pleased with some progress we’re making on that.”

With respect to the early release of prisoners and the problems at the Department of Corrections, the governor couldn’t resist taking aim at GOP critics whose pressure led the DOC head to resign.

“I’ll be honest with you, a lot of politicians when something goes wrong like this, they just lop off somebody’s head and throw it to the street,” Inslee said.  “That’s not good enough for me.  I want to know everybody who is responsible for this.”

Inslee said a thorough review by two former federal prosecutors should be done by the end of the month.

Late Thursday afternoon, state officials announced that Assistant Attorney General Rhonda Larson submitted her resignation. She was the official who advised the Department of Corrections that it was not necessary to recalculate sentences, even after the computer glitch was discovered that led to erroneous early prisoner releases.