Case #43061
Respondent name: John Weidenfeller
Complainant name: Andrew Saturn

The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has completed its review of the complaint filed by Andrew Saturn on November 9, 2018. The complaint alleged that John Weidenfeller, General Manager of Thurston County Public Utility District (PUD), may have violated RCW 42.17A.555 for using public facilities or resources to assist Linda Oosterman and oppose Andrew Saturn during the 2018 election campaigns for Thurston County PUD Commissioner. PDC staff reviewed your allegations, the statutes, rules, PDC Interpretation #04-02 Guidelines for Local Government Agencies in Election Campaigns, and the response from Mr. Weidenfeller.

Producing and distributing information to the Thurston County PUD Commissioners concerning the maintenance and operations of the PUD is part of Mr. Weidenfeller’s normal and regular duties as General Manager of the PUD. However, staff does not believe that rebutting statements made by Mr. Saturn in political advertisements and public forums as a candidate seeking election to the PUD, and providing that information to one of the incumbent Commissioners running against Mr. Saturn, is a permitted activity in accordance with PDC statues, rules and interpretations. 

Based on these findings PDC staff has determined that, in this instance, the letter produced and distributed to the Thurston County PUD Commissioners by Mr. Weidenfeller does not amount to an actual violation warranting further investigation or enforcement action. 

However, pursuant to WAC 390-37-060(1)(b), PDC staff issued a formal written warning to John Weidenfeller concerning the importance of complying with RCW 42.17A.555 and the prohibition of using PUD facilities to support or oppose a candidate or ballot proposition, in accordance with WAC 390-05-271 and 273. This formal written warning conveys staff’s expectation that in the future, Mr. Weidenfeller will fully comply with the prohibitions found in RCW 42.17A.555 concerning the use of public facilities, including using the facilities to rebut, respond, or attempt to clarify information that is critical of the PUD in political advertisements or statements made by candidates seeking public office, especially the office of PUD Commissioner. The Commission will consider this formal written warning if there are any future PDC law or rule violations by John Weidenfeller. 

Based on this information, the PDC has dismissed the complaint in accordance with RCW 42.17A.755(1).

Disposition: Case Closed with Written Warning (Resolved 02/07/2019)
Date opened: 11/15/2018
Area of Law: RCW 42.17A.555

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