Case #78803
Respondent name: Jani Hitchen
Complainant name: Robert Parker

The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has completed its review of the complaint filed on October 14, 2020. The complaint alleged that Jani Hitchen, a candidate for Pierce County Council, Position 6 in the 2020 election, may have violated RCW 42.17A.555 for misuse of public facilities to support her own election campaign.

PDC staff reviewed the allegations; the applicable statutes, rules, and reporting requirements; the response provided by Jani Hitchen (the “Respondent”); and PDC Interpretation 01-03, to determine whether the record supports a finding of one or more violations.

It appears that Ms. Hitchen taking campaign related photos of herself and her classroom and then posting them on her campaign Facebook page, were done intentionally but with a mind towards compliance with state laws, rules and PDC Interpretation 01-03. Ms. Hitchen responded timely to the complaint and removed the posts in the interest of full compliance. Staff found that any minor misuse of public facilities by Ms. Hitchen was done because of a general misunderstanding and not a disregard for the statutory restrictions. However, it is staff’s opinion that the public areas contemplated by PDC Interpretation 01-03 are those typically used or rented by community members or organizations within the school district boundaries, and that individual classrooms would not normally be available for non-school related activities.

Based on our findings staff has determined that, in this instance, the taking and posting of two campaign related photos does not amount to a finding of a violation that warrants further investigation.

PDC staff reminded Jani Hitchen about the importance of reviewing the applicability of RCW 42.17A.555 and PDC Interpretation 01-03Guidelines for School Districts in Election Campaigns, to ensure any future campaign related activities fully comply with PDC statutes and rules.

Based on this information, the PDC finds that no further action is warranted and has dismissed this matter in accordance with RCW 42.17A.755(1).

Disposition: Case Closed with Reminder (Resolved 12/21/2020)
Date opened: 10/22/2020
Area of Law: RCW 42.17A.555

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