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Thursday, October 21, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Explain business dealings, Gregoire asks of GOP foe

OLYMPIA — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Gregoire yesterday called on her GOP challenger, Dino Rossi, to release his income-tax returns and explain his business dealings and campaign claims.

Rossi, meanwhile, called a news conference yesterday that featured a former investigator in Gregoire's office, Karl Parrick, who said the Attorney General's Office had forced him out because he was so successful in investigating cases of patient abuse that opened the state to huge liability bills. In 2001, Parrick settled a wrongful-termination suit for $450,000.

"I don't question my opponent's concern for vulnerable patients," Rossi said. "What I do question is her management and her priorities."

Gregoire, campaigning in Kirkland, seized on a Seattle Times story, published yesterday, about Rossi's business dealings, saying he should release his tax returns and explain himself, she said.

"It is troubling he has not been forthcoming with his income-tax returns and documents about his business dealings, going into business with lobbyists and then working on legislation for their clients," Gregoire said in an interview.

The Times described Rossi's commercial-real-estate investments, one of which involved a partnership with two Olympia lobbyists, Richard and David Ducharme, who work for the Building Industry Association of Washington, a group that represents home builders.

"She's grasping at straws here," Rossi said in an interview, adding that it was "mudslinging" for Gregoire to demean his business background.

"I never said I was Bill Gates," he said. "I'm a small-business guy. I started out with a $200 car and $200 in the bank and my properties are now worth $3.8 million or something. That's successful."

As a citizen legislator trying to keep his business going, he partnered with the Ducharmes and others, but never used his Senate position to do them any favors, Rossi said. The partnership with lobbyists was checked out with the Ethics Board, he said.

He said he has fully completed the financial disclosure the state requires and sees no point in releasing his tax returns. He said there is nothing unusual in them.

Rossi said Gregoire wants to distract voters from her "gross mismanagement" of her office.

Parrick, the investigator who worked on some of the state's worst abuse cases, including the battering of Linda David by her caretaker husband and the rape and abuse of developmentally disabled patients, told a news conference that Gregoire's office didn't put a high-enough priority on investigating and preventing patient abuse.

Parrick said Gregoire is a "good person" but that her office "just dropped the ball. She put a lot of the wrong people in management positions. ... It was too much about money and not enough about protecting the vulnerable."

Fred Olson, Gregoire's chief of staff, called Parrick's comments "absurd and outrageous." Olson said the attorney general did not suppress findings from investigations, and that she wanted state caregivers to fix the underlying problem of patient abuse.

He said Parrick wasn't sacked and that settling out of court was cheaper and less risky than fighting him in court.

"The real issue with Karl Parrick was his extremely poor judgment," Olson said.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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