Published January 03, 2013
UPDATE - Ethics board rejects complaint about Rep. Hunt rallyBrad Shannon
The state Legislative Ethics Board has dismissed activist Arthur West’s complaint against Democratic state Rep. Sam Hunt of Olympia. At issue was Hunt’s participation at a Capitol Rotunda rally held in favor of Initiative 502 in mid-October. Travel writer Rick Steves, who was a major donor to I-502, was the main speaker at the Oct. 12 rally, but counterprotesters tried to disrupt his speech and State Patrol troopers led several protesters out of the building. At issue in the ethics complaint was whether Hunt had used his position to improperly divert state facilities for the campaign - or to enlist State Patrol officers to intimidate or assault opponents of the measure. The formal ethics decision, announced today by ethics board counsel Mike O’Connell, is here. He said board chairman David Draper signed the opinion Dec. 27. In a nutshell, the opinion says there was no reasonable cause to think Hunt violated ethics laws by speaking at the rally or that he had marshaled police to the rally.l “The rally was organized by proponents of the initiative and they had paid for and obtained the necessary permit to conduct the rally at that location,” O’Connell said in an email. “The Board cited an earlier opinion which held that legislators may participate in such events in public areas on the capitol campus which are permitted by state law. The Board also dismissed, on jurisdictional grounds, allegations that Rep. Hunt had committed an assault against one or more initiative opponents who were present at the rally.” West alleged that Hunt had choked a man who was attending the rally and who was protesting I-502. Hunt all along has denied that he ever choked anyone and said he was just pushing back after a protester tried to push him out of the way. But he said today that the State Patrol did question him after the incident. The State Patrol referred its findings to the Thurston County prosecutor, Jon Tunheim. But Bob Calkins, spokesman for the patrol, said Tunheim's office declined to act on the case. I have a call in to the prosecutor's office for details. Our account of the rally and disruptions is here. Voters eventually approved the marijuana legalization measure, which had a huge financial advantage over opponents. UPDATE on original 1:55 p.m. post: Thurston Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim said a deputy in his office has been reviewing the case sent over by the State Patrol. He was unable to say yet whether the complaint would be dismissed or acted on.