Anonymous informer wants candidate’s financial dealings noted

An anonymous informant distributed documents this week to local media indicating a candidate for Port of Bremerton commissioner had been found to be improperly selling securities several years ago, leading to a cease-and-desist order from the Securities Division of the Department of Financial Institutions in 2002.

The court document states that Gene David Hart, vying for Cheryl Kincer’s soon-to-be vacant seat on the port’s board of commissioners, and HART Investing Co. breached the Securities Act of Washington by offering investments and not being “registered as a securities salesperson or broker-dealer in the state.”

According to the charges, Hart’s investment company advertised in a local newspaper that it was offering “certificates of deposit paying 10-percent interest.”

The ads ran several times in February 2002, and were scheduled to run in March, as well.

Hart said he found out about the state action when his ad did not run as expected, and he called the newspaper to inquire why.

“I had no idea I was buying and selling securities,” Hart said Thursday. “I was just trying to get my business going. I just thought people were loaning me money.”

Hart was threatened with a $20,000 fine by the agency, but said it was not imposed.

Instead, Hart said he hired an attorney and after reaching an agreement, was ordered to pay $500 for the investigating employee’s time.

Five years later, Hart said a copy of the order with no return address was mailed to his house, accompanied by a note that read, “You can’t remain anonymous when you have a court record.”

“I took this as a form of intimidation,” Hart said, explaining that he has kept the letter and note in a plastic bag to preserve any evidence.

He said he considered sending it to the FBI, but decided not to.

Asked who might have mailed the letter to him and others, Hart said, “My hunch is that it was mailed by (port Commissioner) Bill Mahan.”

Reached by phone Thursday, Mahan said he was aware of the state order against Hart, but denied he was responsibile for the mailings.

“I was aware there was a problem and decided not to say anything about it,” Mahan said, admitting that he had been tempted to call Hart on the issue during port meetings when Hart made inflammatory comments to him.

“I got pretty upset with him, and I thought, the next time he takes off on me, I’m going to say, ‘You’ve got some skeletons in your closet, too,’” Mahan said. “But (my confidants) advised me that would not be the proper thing to do. So I just kind of shoved it aside.”

Regarding whether voters should be concerned about Hart’s actions, Mahan said he believed they should.

“People that don’t follow the rules in handling other people’s monies — I’m not sure I want that kind of person handling my public money,” he said.

Hart, who describes himself as the “Taxpayers’ Watchdog,” said the episode does not mean voters should be concerned about his trustworthiness.

“I have nothing to hide. I made a mistake and I learned from it,” he said, noting that none of the investors who gave him money “lost one penny, and they all got their 10 percent interest.”

However, Hart acknowledged that some may be wary of him.

“The bottom line is, there are folks out there want to politically crucify me,” he said. “But I feel it would be a disservice to the people if I would not be elected.”

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