Washington state’s Public Disclosure Commission staff has completed a year-long investigation into how Whatcom County’s three top elected officials ran the campaign for last year’s jail bond. The local League of Women Voters and over a dozen individual people filed complaints following the election. The commission decided to group the complaints into one case.
On Friday, Dec 2, the commission staff released their recommendations and the five commissioners will make their decisions next Thursday, Dec 8. The commissioners could accept the staff proposal or decide there are further violations. Theoretically, they could decide there are no violations, but that is very unlikely in this case.
The complaint accuses our sheriff, county executive and prosecuting attorney of jointly running an illegal campaign to promote two of their own candidacies while deceiving voters about the costs and consequences of approving a $100 million jail facility - and paying much more in interest over 30 years. The complaint also accuses the three of illegal mailing procedures and violating state campaign laws.
PDC staff was initially against even investigating the charges, but the commissioners insisted. Staff determined that of the eight allegations, only two show violations of state law. One violation is that the mailer “…did not contain sufficient information about the cost…” of the new jail. The second violation determined that it was a “targeted mailing” intended to help win the election and not the informational brochure as the accused officials claimed.
As penalty, the staff recommends a $1,000 fine for Jack Louws, with $500 suspended, and no penalties for Sheriff Elfo or prosecutor McEachran.
The full 1,000 plus pages of the case, #1122, are available online at the PDC website. It could take a few minutes to download. You can also quickly review a very brief description of the case on the PDC website.
Last year, several writers on NWCitizen published articles strongly urging a NO vote on the jail bond because it was a deceptive and absurdly expensive project. Those of us who have studied the issue feel that Elfo and McEachran share fully in the deceptions and illegal actions along with Louws. You can check the articles by clicking on the category “Jail Planning.”
Of course, we will follow-up on this issue with a report on the commissioner’s final decision next week.