Case #76193
Respondent name: Julie Door
Complainant name: Arthur David Churchman

A complaint was filed alleging that Julie Door, the incumbent Mayor of the City of Puyallup and a candidate for State Senator in the 25th Legislative District in 2020, may have violated RCW 42.17A.555 by allowing a City of Puyallup Council member to make statements during a City Council meeting about a political committee distributing political advertising in the City of Puyallup.

During the August 18, 2020 Puyallup City Council meeting Councilmember Robin Farris made comments that political advertisements had been distributed in Puyallup by a political committee concerning the 25th Legislative District Senate race stating “that property taxes increased by 20% and a number of other things. That is absolutely false....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.”

In Ms. Farris's response letter to the complaint filed against her she stated that during the August 18th meeting the City Attorney “did not interrupt me, nor did any of the fellow councilmembers call a point of order, which they would not hesitate to do.”  She stated that after finishing her statement, Mayor Door requested the City Attorney provide her and the rest of the council with information “regarding speaking out about political matters during council meetings.”  She stated that while she stood by her comments at the meeting about the political committee and the mailer, “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.”

Mayor Door stated in her response letter “As you can see from the evidence Mr. Churchman provides, I did not mention my campaign or advocate for or against any campaign during city council meeting. It appears Mr. Churchman's issue is with comments made by Councilmember Farris.

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, as Mayor of the City of Puyallup and Chair of the City Council meetings, Mayor Door has the responsibility to ensure that the Puyallup City council members adhere to the statutes and rules concerning open public meetings.  That responsibility includes the PDC prohibitions found in RCW 42.17A.555 for allowing comments to be made by City Councilmembers and the general public during an official open public meeting.  The prohibition includes comments made during the meeting which support or oppose any candidate for public office, including indirect references or inferences about a candidate, or any political committee that supports or opposes a candidate.

The PDC is reminding Julie Door concerning the prohibitions of using City of Puyallup facilities and resources, including during Puyallup city council meeting, to support or oppose any candidate, or any political committee that supports or opposes candidates in accordance with RCW 42.17A.555.  The PDC has dismissed this matter in accordance with RCW 42.17A.755(1). 

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

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