Kitsap Auditor changes strategy after PDC complaint

A complaint about Kitsap County interim Auditor Walter E. Washington’s reporting practices filed with the Public Disclosure Committee (PDC) has caused the candidate to restructure his campaign, beginning with the hiring of a professional accounting firm to make sure “all the I’s are dotted and the T’s crossed.”

“I’m looking to place this behind me and address the issues that make me more qualified than my opponent,” Washington said.

The complaint, filed by Frederick J. Scheffler of Bainbridge Island, cites 13 instances of Washington not filing required forms in a timely manner. The PDC reported receipt of the e-mail version of the complaint on Thursday, which promised the written form will follow in a few days.

Washington, who was appointed to fill Karen Flynn’s unexpired term, is making his first run at elected office.

When confronted with the lateness charges he turned his attention to the matter and has now resolved to make sure the requirements are met exactly in the future.

“I’m new at this,” he said of his campaign. “I made some mistakes and have corrected them.”

The violations were brought to light by his opponent, John Clark, on Monday. Specifically, he a C-4 disclosure that was due on June 28.

Washington filed the missing document and three others on Aug. 13.

As an explanation of the delayed report, Washington said they were mailed to a Post Office box he had not visited in several days, and needed his signature.

After hearing this explanation, Clark sent an e-mail saying “Walt didn't quite get the dodge right. The forms didn't require his signature. They are filed electronically.”

Washington said on Thursday he intended to make use of electronic filing option in the future.

Clark criticized Washington for his inability to follow the law, saying the violation was especially important because the auditor is responsible for supervising the election process.

Washington said his not following the rules had nothing to do with his abilities as auditor.

“My first priority is my wife and my second is the Auditor’s Office,” he said. “My third is the campaign, which I haven’t done before. Implementing the first ‘top-two’ primary is a complicated process that changes every day. So the campaign hasn’t been my first priority.

“Now that my opponent has elevated the issue, I will pay more attention to this,” he said. “I will make the necessary investment to make sure these flaws are fixed.”

Washington said the difference is that a campaign is run by volunteers, while an Auditor’s Office has a large professional staff.

While stressing that it is not an excuse, Washington said that late filings are common.

If he is fined, he said, he will “just pay and put it behind me.”

Scheffler, who said that he has no active connection to Clark’s campaign, said he filed the PDC complaint because of Washington’s affiliation with the King County Elections Department, where he worked prior to moving to Kitsap in 2006.

“In 2004 there were 1,200 active-duty military votes that were not counted by King County,” Scheffler said. “Now we have someone from King County who was involved in that mess running our elections over here. This is all about accountability and responsibility.

“I am fed up with people ignoring the rules,” he said. “We need to vet our elected officials more carefully. If we had more carefully vetted the people we’ve elected, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in today.”

Scheffler, a member of the Kitsap County Veteran’s Advisory Board, said he was offended that Washington positioned himself as a “decorated veteran.”

True heroes, he said, do not need to flaunt that fact.

Scheffler said he found the lateness problems on his own and then notified Clark, who issued a press release on Monday.

PDC spokesperson Lori Anderson said that complaints are examined by a committee to determine their merit.

If merit is found the complaint is logged in and the object of the complaint is given ten days to respond.

Afterwards, a fine may be assessed or the charge could be dismissed.

Washington and Clark are due to face off at the Eggs and Issues forum at 7:30 a.m. Aug 26 at the Cloverleaf Cafe in Bremerton.

The forum, sponsored by the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce, is free and open to the public.

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