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PDC examines Kitsap auditor

The Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) will conduct a hearing Thursday morning regarding several late campaign filings by Kitsap County Auditor Candidate Walter E. Washington.

The complaint was filed by Frederick J. Scheffler of Bainbridge Island in August and cites 13 instances of Washington not filing required forms in a timely manner.

It stated that Washington “is responsible for oversight of elections and governmental compliance with applicable statutes. His campaign has routinely ignored all reporting requirements stipulated by Public Disclosure Commission.”

The case will he heard by PDC Chair Ken Schellberg, who is expected to immediately rule on the matter.

The possible outcome ranges from a dismissal of the charge to a $500 civil fine.

Washington said on Monday he plans to attend the meeting, which begins at 8 a.m. in Olympia, and will explain and justify the conduct of his campaign.

“We were late on some things,” Washington said. “But we have good records. Our accounting was accurate, and we paid our bills on time.”

When the complaint was filed Washington pledged to pay stricter attention to filing deadlines and procedures.

He hired an accountant to help the campaign treasurer — a family member — and began the process of filing electronically.

To accomplish this, his campaign downloaded the free PDC Online Reporting of Campaign Activity (ORCA) software and began entering information. The computer then crashed, causing the campaign to start from the beginning — a process that included the re-entry of data onto a newly purchased computer.

PDC spokesman Lori Anderson said that ORCA can be difficult, and that it is on the level of QuickBooks. The program requires some instruction, which the PDC provides.

“They were responsive,” Anderson said of the Washington campaign. “But we did need to show them how to do some things differently. He made some missteps but it was no big deal.”

But even if a high number of candidates need instruction on the software, only a minority are subject to a PDC examination.

Even fewer are called in for a hearing.

“We have about 1,800 candidates on even-numbered years,” said PDC Assistant Director Doug Ellis. “Only about 20 are called in for a hearing.”

The reality of a hearing means the charges have some substance, since most complaints are dismissed as political and without substance.

In order for a hearing to be scheduled, a PDC investigator must determine the complaint has some veracity.

Scheffler does not plan to attend the hearing. He is a supporter of Washington’s opponent, John Clark, but does not have a formal role in Clark’s campaign.

A member of the Kitsap County Advisory Board, Scheffler said he is most concerned with making it easier for veterans to cast their ballots.

One of the major reasons he filed the action is due to the problems weathered by the King County Elections Department in 2004, where Washington was working at the time.

“This isn’t personal,” Scheffler said. “His whole campaign has been so screwed up from the beginning. This irritated me, how he was not following the rules. The software isn’t that hard to operate. He should take some responsibility and do the job right.

“I don’t see why we should have someone who was involved in that disaster over in King County supervising the elections over here,” Scheffler said.

Washington said his campaign has made some mistakes, but that his involvement in the 2004 election was negligible.

“He is out of touch,” Washington said of Scheffler. “He is painting me with a broad brush. While we all worked tallying the votes on Election Day, I was working in the records department.”

Clark, who does not plan to attend the hearing, said he does not know what to expect.

“The PDC does not go out of its way to level fines,” he said. “They tend to help you work through any problems you may have. But the fact is that his filings were late, and he did not do anything about it until we brought up that fact.

“I think this is all about his election knowledge,” Clark said. “If he can’t follow the rules himself how can he supervise everyone elses’ election?”

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