On September 3, 2019, the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) received a complaint alleging that Ron Simmons, fire chief for the Snohomish County Fire District 4, may have violated RCW 42.17A.555 by using a public agency, office or facilities to support multiple candidates for Commissioner Position 4 of the Snohomish County Fire District 4, and to oppose Mr. Merritt's candidacy.
PDC staff reviewed your allegations, the applicable statutes, rules and interpretations, including Interpretation 04-02 "Guidelines for Local Government Agencies in Election Campaigns," and the response provided by Chief Ron Simmons to determine whether a formal investigation or enforcement action is warranted.
Staff's review found that the screenshots depicted Ron Simmons as Fire Chief. However, the Chief's title is not a public facility of Snohomish County Fire Protection District 4. Additionally, staff also found that the Chief's personal Facebook postings, posted by the Chief on his personal Facebook account were done on the Chief's own time, during non-work hours, and were expressions of his personal views, and were not the view(s) of the Snohomish County Fire Protection District 4. Also, Chief Simmons' Facebook postings did not involve the use of any facilities of Snohomish County Fire District 4.
Regarding the second allegation - use of district email to send messages to subordinates to discourage support for a candidate, staff found that Chief Simmons sent three separate emails, including one Memorandum to staff. Staff's review determined that one of the emails sent by the Chief needed to be worded more carefully and with some degree of restraint.
Based on the above review/determination, staff recommended to Chief Simmons that in the future he avoid using wording like he used in the last paragraph of the email that needed to be worded carefully and with some degree of restraint, directing staff to "please stay out of the campaign gaming," because it is important to avoid even the appearance or perception that the Chief, while using public facilities, is directing his staff members to not be involved in election campaigns on their own time, using their own resources.
PDC staff reminded Chief Simmons about the importance of avoiding even the appearance or perception of using agency facilities to support or oppose candidates for public office by encouraging or limiting support or opposition for candidates.
Based on this information, PDC staff dismissed this matter in accordance with RCW 42.17A.755(1).Disposition: Case Closed with Reminder (Resolved 11/07/2019)