Case #55901
Respondent name: The City of Olympia, a municipal corporation, and Steve Hall in his capacity as City Manager, City of Olympia
Complainant name: James Lazar

On October 5, 2018, the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) received a complaint alleging that the City of Olympia, a municipal corporation, may have violated RCW 42.17A.555 by using City of Olympia facilities to support Mayor Cheryl Shelby's 2019 re-election campaign by featuring her in a video on the City of Olympia's website during an election year; and (2) RCW42.17A.575 by featuring Mayor Shelby in a Public Service Announcement (PSA) when she was up for re-election in 2019. 

PDC staff reviewed the allegation, including the video evidence submitted with the complaint and determined that video was not a PSA in accordance with RCW 42.17A.575 and WAC 390-05-525.  Based on an interview with the City of Olympia attorney and his response to the allegations, the videos were only providing citizens with information about the budget and encouraging their participation in the annual budget process, which is part of the normal and regular conduct of the the City of Olympia. In addition, the City of Olympia proactively pulled down the "An invitation from the Mayor" video featuring Mayor Shelby from its website on August 1, 2019, the same day the complaint was filed. 

The City of Olympia attorney also stated the other videos were all related to the budget process and included one video from 2018, and the main budget video produced in 2019 prominently featured two current City of Olympia employees, with the narrator being a former city employee who has since accepted a new position with a different employer. 

While the video featured Mayor Shelby during an election year, there was no mention about her being a candidate for re-election to that office in 2019. However, PDC staff reminded the City of Olympia about the prohibitions of using city employees and facilities to support or oppose any candidate or ballot proposition, and encouraged the city to not feature any elected official in city business related videos or any other communications concerning the budget or other relevant city issues when that official is up for election or re-election. 

Based on these findings, staff determined that no evidence supported supports a finding of a violation warranting further investigation.

Based on the above, PDC staff dismissed this matter in accordance with RCW 42.17A.755(1). 

 

Disposition: Case Closed with Reminder (Resolved 10/22/2019)
Date opened: 08/09/2019
Area of Law: RCW 42.17A.555, RCW 42.17A.575

Subscribe to updates for this content