Ticket Number: 
42987
Complainant: 
Brian Ritchie
Respondent: 
Rosemary O'Neil
Created Date: 
November 14, 2018
Status of Investigations: 
Case Closed with Reminder
Description: 

The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has completed its review of the complaint filed by Brian Ritchie on November 3, 2018. The complaint alleged that the Snohomish County Emergency Radio System, may have violated RCW 42.17A.555 for using public facilities or resources to support a ballot measure.  PDC staff reviewed the allegations, the statutes and rules, the ballot proposition fact sheet, and the response from Snohomish County Emergency Radio System (SERS). Based on these findings, staff has determined that in this instance, the use of a public facilities does not amount to a material violation warranting further investigation since: (1) Historically, the PDC has routinely advised and held that with respect to election-related publications, one jurisdiction-wide objective and fair presentation of the facts per ballot measure is appropriate. (2) The Snohomish County Emergency Radio System has acknowledged that a few of the phrases in the fact sheet "should not have been used and will refrain from doing so in the future." (3) The Public Disclosure Commission holds that it is not only the right, but the responsibility of local government to inform the general public of the operational and maintenance issues facing local agencies. (4) The errors in the fact sheet are minor in nature and did not materially impact the public interest. PDC Staff is reminding the Snohomish County Emergency Radio System (SERS) about the importance of providing only an objective and fair presentation of the facts based on and expanded upon the information prepared by the agency in accordance with the normal and regular conduct of the agency. As defined by PDC Interpretation 04-02, the clause “objective and fair presentation of the facts” means that in addition to presenting the facts, the materials should present accurately the costs and other anticipated impacts of a ballot measure. Agencies should refrain from using terminology in fact sheets which may appear to exaggerate, overstate, inflate, or aggrandize the impact of the ballot measure in the effort to influence the outcome of the vote. Based on this information, the PDC has dismissed this matter in accordance with RCW 42.17A.755(1), and will not be conducting a more formal investigation into your complaint or pursuing further enforcement action in this case.