By Laurie Rogers
The complaint stemmed from public records I obtained from Spokane Public Schools in January and July 2011. In those records, I saw a clear pattern of school district officials using public resources to promote bond and levy ballot propositions, as well as evidence of certain employees using public resources to assist in the campaign of a school board candidate. There appeared to me to be multiple violations of RCW 42.17.130, a law that governed disclosure, campaign finances, lobbying and records. (The law was recodifed as RCW 42.17A.555 in January 2012.)
Associate Superintendent Mark Anderson told the PDC that, while there were “multiple inappropriate uses of public facilities” during the campaigns, “these uses were conducted by individual Spokane Public Schools officials and employees, without overarching authorization from the administration or school board.”
- Nancy Stowell, former superintendent: Cited but no penalty
- Mark Anderson, associate superintendent: $700, with $400 suspended, for a net of $300 penalty.
- Kevin Morrison, administrator: $250, with $200 suspended, for a net of $50 penalty
According to RCW 42.17.130 (bolding added):
The PDC report stated that the district’s “informational” material carried promotional language such as “something for everyone” and “the bond would stimulate the economy.” (From records I sent to the PDC, I can add more, including, but not limited to: “promote,” “campaign,” “necessary,” “critical,” “essential” and “300 staff positions would possible (sic) be lost.”) However, the PDC officials wrote this:
The PDC doesn’t note that the John Rose/Nick Deshais records requests found no collusion between Jennifer Walther, me and the KXLY anchor because there was no collusion to find. The questions asked that night were good and relevant. Candidates rose or fell on their own.
The PDC report doesn’t note that the Ferris debate was approved by the district and promoted by the district, and that it was the second of its kind, organized and run in exactly the same way as the first, and by the same teacher. It doesn’t note that the district “investigated” the 2011 debate and laid the matter to rest without disciplining Jennifer Walther.
- have an opinion?
- organize a debate?
- communicate with conservatives?
- ask solid, timely and relevant questions of elective candidates?
The PDC criticized me (after the fact) of not doing a perfect job in submitting my complaint. I did my best, given that there are no clear guidelines or rules for making a PDC complaint. Certain words such as “informational” and “promotional” are not clearly defined. There is only a fill-in-the-blank form on the PDC’s Web site. If the PDC had called me and asked me to redo the complaint, I would have done so, but they never asked me or gave me that opportunity.
On Friday, February 21, 2014, Stutzman finally emailed me about the hearing on February 27. This email arrived just six days before the hearing. Stutzman wrote nothing about the accusations and criticisms of me in his public document. I was not invited to testify or attend. I was not told that PDC hearings are public meetings. I was not told I could submit evidence up to and including five days before the hearing. I was told only that I could listen to the enforcement hearing online.
I don't know if the PDC recorded the hearing. Tony Perkins was told in the hearing about the technical difficulties, but in his Feb. 28 email to me, he didn't mention them or offer me an audio of the hearing.
- Officials who engage in egregious violations of law can expect to suffer no more than a few hundred dollars in penalties.
- The PDC can offset, downplay, ignore, and mitigate evidence of wrongdoing.
- The PDC can accept flimsy excuses and dismiss acknowledged violations of law, even if respondents offer a defense that is illogical, insensible or not lawful.
- The PDC can absolve respondents of a consequence for violations if respondents claim ignorance and promise to do better in the future.
- PDC officials can assist violators by judging activities that are in violation as being “normal and regular.”
- The PDC can, without a formal process, allow respondents to become complainants and turn complainants into the accused.
- The PDC can use its office, “under color of law,” to attack citizens, without a formal written complaint and without solid evidence of actual violations.
- The PDC can, “under color of law,” accuse people of political associations and find them in violation because of those associations.
- The PDC can accept unsubstantiated accusations as if they are factual evidence of wrongdoing.
- The PDC can, “under color of law,” attack or imply impropriety on the part of whistleblowers and bystanders, without offering them notice or an opportunity for explanation or self-defense.
- The PDC can engage in selective enforcement, treat individuals differently, and penalize them accordingly. It does not need to be consistent in interpreting the law or in assessing punishments.
- The PDC can violate with impunity its own protocols.
The PDC has accepted school district campaigning as normal and regular activity; accepted unsupported excuses for violations; and reinterpreted the law without citations to the law, the rules or case law. From now on, it will be okay to not know the law, to fix things “retroactively,” to enforce the law selectively, to implicate whistleblowers and innocent bystanders, and to not provide evidence of violations of the law.
It’s hard to understand. Is this the country these people want their children to live in? A country with no clear legal standard, laws that are applied unequally and inconsistently, laws that are impossible for citizens to understand or follow, and laws that are used against the innocent and the whistleblowers? We call that kind of country a tyranny. The PDC has dragged Washington State into very dangerous territory.
A full and thorough investigation of the PDC, especially its investigation of Case #12-145, not only is warranted, but is critically necessary to the future of Washington State, including the future of those who would cheer its decisions.