Port of Seattle: Hearing on Port Commission’s misuse of public resources

Enforcement Hearing Notice

Remember back to October 2013, when I alleged that millions of public dollars were being funneled into incumbents’ campaigns for port commissioner? Since then, all four candidates involved won by a landslide.

On September 25, 2014, the Public Disclosure Commission will be holding a hearing to look into the alleged violations by Tom Albro, John Creighton, Courtney Gregoire, and Stephanie Bowman.

The question here is simple. Can a incumbent up for reelection play a “welcome message” over the PA system at a public facility they are intrusted with? Or is that a violation of campaign ethics and the law? The law is clear. From RCW 42.17A.555, regarding use of public office or agency facilities in campaigns:

No elective official nor any employee of his or her office nor any person appointed to or employed by any public office or agency may use or authorize the use of any of the facilities of a public office or agency, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of any person to any office or for the promotion of or opposition to any ballot proposition.

Unfortunately this exact scenario has come up in the past, so the state legislature passed a even stricter rule for this specific case in 2010. See RCW 42.17A.575 regarding public service announcements.

No state-elected official or municipal officer may speak or appear in a public service announcement that is broadcast, shown, or distributed in any form whatsoever during the period beginning January 1st and continuing through the general election if that official or officer is a candidate.

If you go back to my original complaint you’ll find a copy of a public records request I made with the Port of Seattle, including the script, audio recordings, and playback schedules for these PA system announcements. So there is no question of if the law has been violated, only what the penalty will be.