Melissa Santos

State government watchdog reporter

Tacoma, Washington

Melissa Santos

While reporting for one of the Northwest’s largest daily newspapers, I’ve exposed politicians violating open meetings laws, misspending public funds and saying things that simply aren’t true. Editing a weekly newspaper and a mobile app has taught me to write cleanly, quickly and for all platforms.



Babies behind bars: How some inmates raise their infants in prison

Aceyn and Ezra will soon turn 1 year old inside the women's prison, where they’ve lived since birth. They're part of a program that lets pregnant mothers keep their babies.
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Boeing, big companies would get tax cuts under schools plan

While Democrats propose hiking business taxes to pay for schools, a Republican plan would give many of Washington’s largest corporations a sizable property tax cut.
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Washington No.1 for jailing noncriminal kids, due to 1995 law

More than two decades after the beaten body of a Tacoma runaway was found along the Spokane River, a photo of her hangs prominently on the wall in a King County juvenile courtroom. It’s the same photo Rebecca Hedman’s parents took to Olympia 20 years ago to push lawmakers to pass the Becca Bill, which gave parents more authority to seek help for their runaway children.
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Plan would give less new money to schools than Republicans said

It’s the most ambitious plan to overhaul Washington’s school system in a generation. Yet for weeks, it has been difficult to figure out exactly what it does. What has now become clear is that the education plan introduced by Senate Republicans doesn’t put as much new money into schools as GOP leaders would like people to believe.
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State bills people who start wildfires, but rarely gets paid

Andy Knutson didn’t see the red-hot piece of metal fly away from him that day. Knutson, a teacher who lives in Okanogan County, said he frantically tried to put out the fire, which started about 15 feet from where he was working on a summer remodeling project. He succeeded at singeing the hair on his arms and melting his shoes, but couldn’t put out the blaze, which went on to scorch nearly 2,000 acres over three days.
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Does state law forgive legislators’ speeding?

It’s a joke shared privately among some state lawmakers in Olympia: Go ahead, drive as fast as you want on the way to the Capitol. it’s the law. It’s a joke shared privately among some state lawmakers in Olympia: Go ahead, drive as fast as you want on the way to the Capitol. it’s the law. Though said in jest, the advice is rooted in reality.
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How did Sound Transit 3’s inflated car-tab fees slip by?

State lawmakers have said they — like taxpayers — were caught off guard by the sharp increases in car-tab fees under Sound Transit 3, the $54 billion transit package voters approved in November. Yet in 2015, those same lawmakers were the ones who gave Sound Transit the authority to raise those taxes, using an outdated method to calculate the fees.
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Fake Founding Fathers quotes make their way into gun-rights bill

A gun-rights bill introduced at the Capitol on Friday includes six quotes from America’s Founding Fathers about the importance of guns to democracy. The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, would create penalties for public officials who block people from owning or buying guns.
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Local politicians — and their moms — are planting comments online

State Rep. Jesse Young and his supporters knew the story was about to come out. So before the local newspaper could post an article about the Republican Gig Harbor lawmaker allegedly screaming at staff members, his mom went on the offensive. The night before The News Tribune’s story was scheduled to appear online, Young’s mother, Maureen Flanagan, sent an email urging Young’s supporters to flood the online comments section at the end of the article.
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Hans Dunshee, new budget writer, is a big personality at Capitol

Sitting in his office at the state Capitol in Olympia, state Rep. Hans Dunshee is full of jokes about how he used to make a living installing toilets and digging holes in the ground. The Democrat from Snohomish once ran a business repairing boats (including their onboard toilets), and another designing septic tanks — jobs where the casual attire he favors probably looked less out of place.
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Inslee avoided talk of taxes, then proposed raising them by $5.5B

The governor gave few hints on the campaign trail that, five weeks after winning re-election, he would propose $5.5 billion in new taxes.
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Public will get less than 24 hours to review crucial budget plan

The public will get less than a day to review a new two-year spending plan that involves a monumental shift in how Washington state pays for schools. State lawmakers originally said the details of their compromise budget would be available for the public to review at noon Thursday. Now it looks like the budget — which is expected to include several hundred pages of detailed policy and spending changes — might not be available for review until Friday morning.
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Melissa Santos

I am a hard-nosed accountability reporter who asks tough questions of government officials and keeps digging for answers when they don't come easy.

As part of my job, I expose untruths in campaign ads, reveal how government agencies spend taxpayer money and explore ways state agencies can do their jobs better.

I also engage regularly with readers on social media, while shooting videos and photos to bolster online story packages.

Previously, I managed a mobile politics app for iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

For three years, I also covered several city governments, uncovering questionable police practices, politicians disregarding public meetings laws and the drunken driving arrest of a statewide elected official.



  • narrative writing
  • Storytelling
  • Social media
  • Writing for the web
  • Covering political campaigns
  • Accountability reporting
  • Data analysis