Public Disclosure Commission rejects Wasson complaint over use of election funds
by Jack Mayne
The Washington Public Disclosure Commission rejected a complaint by Donald F. Wasson of Des Moines that the Highline Public School District violated state law when it sent out a brochure concerning its first bond and levy election last February.
Watson said in his complaint (PDF file) that the district violated state law when it sent out a color campaign marketing brochure as an “attempt to brainwash any and all who reads it,” and that is against the law because public money was spent to produce it
The state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) disagreed.
“Staff’s review of the bond and levy information fact sheet produced and distributed by Highline School District found it to be an objective and fair presentation of the facts for each ballot measure,” said Public Disclosure Investigator William Lemp.
Lemp said “district officials combined information about the (February bond and levy issues) into one set of facts, which reduced mailing costs for the district.”
While the law prohibits public agencies from using tax dollars to advocate for or against ballot measures, they are expected to provide factual information.
“Voters have a right to be well-informed, and we are committed to providing the facts when we are asking voters for funding,” said Catherine Carbone-Rogers, the school district’s chief communications officer. “We are very careful to follow the letter of the law in everything we publish on ballot measures.”
Carbone-Rogers noted voters in the February 2015 election approved for teacher pay and school operations for the next three years.
Voters at that election did reject the bond issue that would have provided dollars to build and replace school facilities. A committee of community members is developing a plan to meet school facility needs, which could include a future bond, said Carbone-Rogers.