Case #76192
Respondent name: Robin Farris
Complainant name: Arthur David Churchman

A complaint was filed alleging that Robin Farris, an incumbent City of Puyallup City Councilmember, may have violated RCW 42.17A.555 by using the facilities of the City of Puyallup to make statements during a City Council meeting about a political committee distributing political advertising during the 2020 election in support or opposition of a candidate.

During the August 18, 2020 Puyallup City Council meeting, Councilmember Robin Farris made comments concerning a political committee that sponsored and distributed political advertisements in the 25th Legislative District in which she stated "property taxes increased by 20% and a number of other things. That is absolutely false, and it's one of those things where you get why people don't trust politics....that was sent out by a PAC or a political action committee, actually two political action committees. And if those political action committees actually believed it then they wouldn't be sending out a flyer against one candidate who is running on council and also contribute to another council member for a different race.”

Ms. Farris went on to state: “I don't think it's fair, I'm not bringing anyone's name into it because it's not about the candidate, it's about these PACs. But I want citizens to know that this is absolutely false, I think it is absolutely unconscionable, to bring this type of rhetoric into an election during the pandemic. And I want to assure the citizens that I have made complaints to the Public Disclosure Commission, and they have opened an enforcement case on each of these PACs. I'm not running for office, so I'm in the clear when it comes to this, I'm just trying to make sure that the truth does matter."

The comments made by Ms. Farris at the August 18th Puyallup City Council meeting did not directly mention a specific candidate or political committee or encourage support or opposition to any candidate, but Ms. Farris did file two complaints against People for Jobs Enterprise Washington, and South Sound Future Enterprise Washington on August 11, 2020.  The complaints alleged the political committees made false statements in the independent expenditures or the electioneering communications undertaken in opposition to Julie Door, a candidate for State Senator in the 25th Legislative District.  It was apparent those were the political committees and advertisements Ms. Farris was referring when she made her comments during the council meeting, and she acknowledged that her comments were focused on the political committee that had sponsored the advertisements.

Ms. Farris stated that while she stood by the comments she made at the meeting about the political committee and the mailers, after the meeting “the City Attorney provided guidance on more appropriate ways of correcting the record that do not have the appearance of political speak. I have taken this approach since that time and will continue that approach from now on.”

Based on these findings, PDC staff found no evidence of a violation that would require conducting a more formal investigation into the complaint or pursuing enforcement action in this instance. However, pursuant to WAC 390-37-060(1)(d), the PDC is issuing a formal written warning to Robin Farris concerning the prohibitions of using City of Puyallup facilities and resources, including making comments during Puyallup city council meeting, to support or oppose any candidate, or any political committee that supports or opposes candidates, either directly or indirectly, in accordance with RCW 42.17A.555.  Robin Ferris will be advised that the Commission will consider this formal written warning in deciding on further Commission action, should there be future violations of PDC laws or rules.

The PDC has dismissed this matter in accordance with RCW 42.17A.755(1).  

Disposition: Case Closed with Written Warning (Resolved 10/12/2020)
Date opened: 09/09/2020
Area of Law: RCW 42.17A.555

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