Legislative Ethics Panel Dismisses "Free Meal" Complaint - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Legislative Ethics Panel Dismisses "Free Meal" Complaint

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OLYMPIA, WA - A legislative ethics panel has dismissed a complaint filed over the practice of some Washington state lawmakers accepting free meals from lobbyists, but the board is encouraging the Legislature to clarify how frequently such meals should be permitted.

The decision says if the Legislature doesn't address the issue in the upcoming 60-day legislative session that begins in January, the panel will work to establish rules on an enforceable standard.

The investigation was prompted by a complaint filed after investigators found that the state's 50 most active lobbyists pampered legislators with $65,000 in free meals in the first four months of this year.

Washington ethics law prohibits public officials from accepting free meals on more than "infrequent occasions."

The ethics complaint focused on the alleged top five recipients: Republican Senators Doug Ericksen of Ferndale, Steve Litzow of Mercer Island, Joe Fain of Auburn, Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla and Mark Schoesler of Ritzville.