OLYMPIA, Wash. -

A state agency is being criticized for spending $600,000 on workshops for more than 2,000 state employees.

The three two-day events in Tacoma for the Community Services Division of the Department of Social and Health Services ended late last week, The Olympian reported.

The workshop invitations went out a day after the head of the agency, Kevin Quigley, told staff about the need for potential budget cuts.

Agency officials say the workshops were the first time in more than five years the staff has been brought together on a large scale to learn about agency goals for the division that works in welfare and food stamp-related programs. The overall cost included $17,500 for a motivational speaker.

State Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler blasted the spending, saying that traditional staff meetings or webcasting could have accomplished the agency's goals without the excessive cost.