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Washington governor to face outside investigator in sex-harassment case

OLYMPIA, WASH. — OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Gov. Mike Lowry's office has hired an outside lawyer to investigate a new sexual-harassment complaint against him -- the result of lessons learned last year after a previous allegation against the governor.

Mr. Lowry's former deputy press secretary, Susanne Albright, 37, said Friday she had quit her job last month because of repeated harassment by the governor. He denied the allegation Saturday, and a Seattle attorney, who remains unidentified, was already in place to look into the case.

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In contrast, when a Washington State Patrol employee complained last year that Mr. Lowry, 54, rubbed his body against hers in a sexual manner, Mr. Lowry's staff director, Harry Thomas, rejected a recommendation by the attorney general's office that an outside investigator be hired.

Instead, Mr. Thomas wanted the attorney general to review the complaint. That created an awkward dual role for state lawyers, who acted as both investigators and legal advisers to Mr. Lowry. Their review could not substantiate the allegation, which Mr. Lowry denied.

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"We can't remake history. But we learned from it," said Jenny Durkan, Mr. Lowry's executive counsel. "Here we have an outside, independent investigator who is going to look at this."

But the attorney general left Mr. Lowry no choice this time.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Kathleen Mix said Friday that her office refused to be put in the position again of giving the governor legal advice and at the same time investigating a claim of sexual harassment against him.

"The attorney general's office made it clear it would not provide that function again," Ms. Mix said. "It is hard for the public to understand . . . and we did not want any appearance of any conflict of interest."

Ms. Albright's lawyer, Larry Finegold, criticized the decision to withhold the name of the Seattle attorney hired to investigate the allegations. "The best way to keep the investigation in the dark is to keep the investigator in the dark," he said, adding that without a name potential witnesses or other victims would not know whom to contact.

Ms. Albright quit her job last month after complaining to friends and co-workers about repeated sexual harassment by the governor. Mr. Lowry said in a written statement that he had done nothing to offend her intentionally.

Ms. Albright did not discuss details of her allegations of sexual harassment, but her attorney said the complaints involved unwanted physical contact.



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