PDC clears Drew of 1 charge

Complaints: Staffers said assessor illegally helped wife’s campaign

bshannon@theolympian.comSeptember 27, 2012 

The state Public Disclosure Commission has sent a letter to Thurston County Assessor Steven Drew, saying it lacks enough evidence to investigate one of two illegal campaigning claims brought against him by county staffers.

The letter, which Drew said he received Tuesday, appears to end the PDC’s inquiry into the accusation that Drew asked one of his division managers to look into a matter involving Republican county Auditor Kim Wyman’s office for political purposes. Drew’s wife, Kathleen, is the Democrat running against Wyman for secretary of state.

PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson declined to release copies of the letter on grounds that it is part of an ongoing investigation. But she said Drew was free to share anything he had received, and the Democratic assessor showed a copy to The Olympian.

The letter – from Phil Stutzman, compliance director for the PDC – says the agency will not investigate the allegation brought by the division manager, Lynn Richard. “There was insufficient evidence of a material violation to warrant an investigation of this allegation,” Stutzman wrote.

But the PDC, according to the same letter, is looking into a complaint that Steven Drew urged his top managers during a Feb. 9 meeting to donate to Thurston County Commissioner Sandra Romero’s re-election campaign.

Drew has apologized for his comments, saying Tuesday that he knows he erred in his comments to staff about supporting Romero’s candidacy and expects to take his lumps, and possibly a fine.

But he insists there was never a basis for the claim that he used his office to further his wife’s political campaign, an allegation he called “ridiculous.”

According to the complaint, Drew allegedly told Richard to look into a vendor’s concern that Wyman’s office was not collecting certain fees and suggested the findings could be helpful to his wife, Kathleen.

He said Tuesday: “I have no knowledge of any problem in the auditor’s office over collecting fees or anything.’’

He also said that the questions surrounding the allegation were unfairly tarnishing the auditor. Wyman herself complained this week that any implication there was misconduct by her office was inaccurate.

Reached Wednesday, Richard said she had no comment except that she stands by the complaint statement filed by Thurston County with the PDC.

Campaign finance reports list Richard as the donor of $50 to Wyman’s campaign. “Yes, I have given to certain campaigns, but it has nothing to do with the work that I do,” Richard said. “I keep politics out of the office.’’

bshannon@theolympian.com 360-753-1688 theolympian.com/politicsblog

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