PDC Dismisses Complaint Against City Officials
Posted on 11/20/2020

A complaint claiming that City of Newcastle officials improperly used government resources to advocate for the Referendum 2 utility tax measure was dismissed on Friday in a verdict issued by the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.

The complaint, filed by two of the three citizens who authored the “con” statement that appeared in the voter’s pamphlet, alleged the City violated state law by posting Frequently Asked Questions about the ballot measure on its website. 

The PDC rejected that claim after impartially reviewing the FAQ, calling the write-up “a fair and objective presentation of the facts.” The PDC also noted that the FAQ “was part of the city’s normal and regular conduct for communicating information about the maintenance and operations of the city to its residents.” On its website and social media accounts, the City regularly posts City news, meeting recaps, and has utilized FAQs regarding various City operations.

In fact, the PDC-issued guidelines for government agencies during election campaigns contends it’s the responsibility of local government to “inform the general public of the operational and maintenance needs of the agency that the community may not realize exist.” 

Therefore, the PDC dismissed the case with no evidence of violations. 

While the complaint does not specifically address a City mailer sent to all residents regarding the utility tax measure, the PDC routinely advises that “with respect to election-related publications, one jurisdiction-wide objective and fair presentation of the facts per ballot measure is appropriate.” The flyer’s content mirrored that in the FAQ, which the PDC noted was “a fair and objective presentation of the facts.”

While the complaint was dismissed, it did incur taxpayer costs to formally respond to the allegations. 

You can view a full copy of the PDC’s verdict here.

The Public Disclosure Commission was created and empowered by Initiative of the People to provide timely and meaningful public access to accurate information about the financing of political campaigns, lobbyist expenditures, and the financial affairs of public officials and candidates, and to ensure compliance with and equitable enforcement of Washington's disclosure and campaign finance laws.

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