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Kitsap County auditor admits disclosure errors

One candidate for Kitsap County auditor has charged his opponent with not following disclosure rules and says the transgression is a more serious matter than it might otherwise be given that the office both men are seeking has responsibility for supervising the election process.

John Clark is challenging Walter E. Washington, who was appointed to the position by the Democratic party, to fill the term of the retiring Karen Flynn.

Washington served as Flynn’s chief deputy for a year after working for King County elections.

Clark, a real estate broker recruited by the Republican Party, has not held elected office prior to running for auditor.

“Walt Washington is in charge of overseeing the local elections but he has not followed the rules,” Clark said. “Several of his filings were late, and the C-4 form that was due on July 28 has not been filed at all.

“This is no-brainer stuff,” Clark said. “The Public Disclosure Commission offers us classes about the rules. It’s bad enough when a candidate does this, but it’s far worse if you’re in charge of the elections.”

Clark accused Washington’s campaign of establishing “a pattern of nothing being filed on time.”

When contacted about the error, Washington said he was unaware the forms had not been filed. After contacting his campaign treasurer, who is also his daughter, he conceded the problem, noting that the forms had been sent to a Post Office box for his signature but he had not yet picked them up and sent them in.

“With all the other things going on, I did not do this,” he said. “I will have to keep a closer eye on this in the future.”

Washington said the violation was “serious, but not an election-killing thing.”

He said, “This is a result of missed communication that will not happen again.”

Clark said he thought that one of his supporters would be filing a complaint with the PDC, but that supporter could not be reached for comment. Lori Anderson, a PDC spokesperson, said the agency would not take any action on the matter without a filed complaint, and that the ruling would depend on the lateness of the filing and “what the public would be missing if the material was not filed.”

Anderson said that any complaint would be dealt with through a hearing process, where the accused would have adequate time to respond. These results, and any penalties, would probably be decided before the fall election.

Clark said he does not recognize Washington as the incumbent, since he has not yet faced the voters.

In addition to the late filings, Clark has criticized Washington for “electioneering” because all ballots are sent to “Walt Washington.”

“In a polling place, you are forbidden to wear candidate T-shirts or have signs within a certain distance of the voting machines,” Clark said. “Now that we have a mail-in ballot, having his name on every envelope gives him an unfair advantage. Ballots should be addressed to the elections supervisor, or anyone else who isn’t running for office that year. Otherwise, it’s the same as electioneering.”

Clark has repeatedly stated his opposition to an exclusive vote by mail. He thinks voters should have the option to vote on an absentee basis, but the default should be the physical polls.

Since the envelopes were printed up this year, Clark feels using Washington’s name represents “an effort to manipulate the process.”

Washington calls this interpretation “unfortunate,” and reflects how the process has taken place for many years.

“We put the auditor’s name on the ballot because they are the ones who are responsible for the election and someone needs to be accountable,” Washington said. “I see his point and this may change. But that change will need to come from the Secretary of State or the (Pub;oc Disclosure Commission.”

Since declaring his candidacy, Clark has maintained a low profile. Washington thinks Clark has chosen this time to field his accusations “because his back is against the wall and he needs to do something to help his candidacy.”

Washington also takes issue with Clark’s conception of incumbency.

“I was appointed and sworn in,” Washington said. “I have performed the job. I am the incumbent.”

Washington and Clark have not met face to face in a debate format. They are scheduled to do so during the Eggs and Issues forum sponsored by the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce, at 7:30 a.m. Aug. 26 at the Cloverleaf Cafe in Bremerton.

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