News TribuneBelinda Stewart.In his own little investigation of a prisons official who

News TribuneBelinda Stewart.In his own little investigation of a prisons official who ran a handful of nonprofit businesses from her Tumwater state office, Sen. Mike Carrell was able to determine that Belinda Stewart, the Department of Corrections (DOC) $102,000-a-year communications director, and her co-workers had racked up almost 600 hours of charity work on the government’s clock. That, in his view, was enough to get her fired. Now, following an ethics board investigation that determined Stewart and other DOC workers actually spent more than 1,000 hours of taxpayer time running the nonprofits, Carrell is convinced she has to be fired, and has sent a letter to that effect to the DOC. “I believe she has been asked to resign and has refused,” confides the Lakewood Republican who sparked the DOC and state Executive Ethics Board probes.Stewart, the former superintendent at Purdy and Aberdeen prisons, who once was disciplined for selling Avon products on the job to her employees, was operating as many as seven nonprofit businesses on state time. Officially, she has so far only been reassigned as the ethics board awaits her response to its findings last week. The board agreed there was probable cause to think she broke state law using staff, computers, state cars, and e-mail systems to benefit her businesses.There was no proof that Stewart personally benefited financially from the arrangement, the ethics probe determined. Most of the work had been supported by higher-ups and appeared to aid the Department of Corrections’ own goals. Stewart did not respond to a request for comment, but is said to be writing a spirited defense of her nonprofits and how they complemented the state’s efforts.Corrections Secretary Bernie Warner says in a statement that the department will institute new ethics training and suspend a policy that allowed three of the nonprofits to operate using state resources, an arrangement established by then-DOC secretary Eldon Vail (who recently resigned after he was videotaped outside a Tumwater motel after allegedly having a nooner with another DOC employee). The ethics probe determined that Stewart used state vehicles to visit prisons on both sides of the state to lead classes for state employees involved in one nonprofit, the National Association of Women in Criminal Justice, and used the vehicles to attend at least four meetings involving another business, Faith Based Re-Entry Coalition. (Though some of Stewart’s businesses have been granted federal 501 (c) (3) charity status, others are still awaiting approval).

Probers turned up about 3,000 Stewart e-mails related to another nonprofit, the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice. They also learned the DOC footed more than $1,000 in lodging, transportation and per diem expenses for her nonprofit-related travel.The ethics board will make a final ruling in the case after receiving Stewart’s response. But Sen. Carrell thinks a good DOC housecleaning is in order. “She didn’t do this in a vacuum,” he tells SW. “She had people above her OK this, saying it’s ‘good for morale.’ The issue is who it benefited–and it benefited her entities, not the state.”Follow The Daily Weekly on Facebook and Twitter.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

More in News & Comment

Auburn police officer Jeffrey Nelson. File photo.
Auburn police officer’s story conflicts with eyewitness account

Jeffrey Nelson faces trial in the killing of Jesse Sarey.

The former Econo Lodge in Kent is a King County Isolation and Quarantine Facility for COVID-19 patients. FILE PHOTO, Kent Reporter
Man dies at Kent COVID-19 isolation and quarantine facility

Found dead in room at former hotel during routine medical staff check

Inquest hearing for Kent man fatally shot by Seattle Police set for March

Four officers to testify in April 2017 shooting that killed Damarius Butts, 19

Seattle East DDC facility front (Photo by Cameron Sheppard/Sound Publishing)
Seattle East DDC facility front (Photo by Cameron Sheppard/Sound Publishing)
U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene urges Postmaster General to reconsider closing Eastside mail facility

Workers at the East DDC in Redmond are concerned about how the closure would impact mail service.

K9 Beny stands before the 75 pounds of pills found in a vehicle on Jan. 14. Photo courtesy of the California Highway Patrol
Federal Way woman arrested in record-setting fentanyl bust in California

Driver and passenger found transporting $3M worth of pills.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, who pushed for broadband funding in Washington schools. (Screenshot from
American Rescue Plan Act funding approved for broadband investments in WA schools

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray pushed for the funding, which will benefit several King County school districts.

Courtesy photo
State offers free at-home COVID-19 tests

You can order the tests through the state’s new online portal.

Sen. Mona Das, D-47
Kent Democratic Sen. Mona Das proposes 1% cut in state sales tax

Starting in 2023; Republicans voice support for Senate Bill 5932

Federal Way police arrest suspect in fatal carjacking

35-year-old Tacoma man charged with murder in “random, brutal and senseless carjacking,” prosecutors say.

Most Read