PDC charges county assessor

bshannon@theolympian.comJuly 31, 2013 

Campaign finance regulators have charged Thurston County Assessor Steven Drew with illegally soliciting campaign contributions from four subordinates early in 2012 to support the re-election of Democratic County Commissioner Sandra Romero.

Drew, a first-term Democrat, admitted last year that he made a “rookie” mistake by mentioning Romero’s fundraiser while wrapping up a meeting with his top agency leaders at the assessor’s office in February 2012. But he has denied he broke the law or ever intended to solicit contributions.

The Public Disclosure Commission has scheduled a brief enforcement hearing on the charge at 9 a.m. Thursday in Olympia. If found in violation of campaign law, Drew could be fined up to $500. Only minor violations can go to the brief enforcement hearings, at which a single PDC commissioner presides, PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said.

Drew did not respond to The Olympian’s requests for comment this week.

Drew’s lawyer, Roselyn Marcus, wrote to the PDC in November to counter two accusations laid against him by Lynn Richard, a former manager in his office who now works for the county Public Works Department.

The PDC dropped one of the allegations. It alleged Drew had asked Richard to look into a constituent’s questions about fees not being collected at the Auditor’s Office, information that could have helped his wife, Kathleen, who was running for secretary of state against then-county Auditor Kim Wyman.

Drew denied making such a statement.

Through his attorney, he also disputed the assertion he had “urged” employees to donate to Romero’s campaign.

“To ‘urge’ is to advocate or demand earnestly or pressingly,” attorney Marcus wrote. “What Mr. Drew did was to make an offhand remark that was both unfortunate and ill-advised, but was not in violation of law.”

Drew also told the PDC through his attorney that he told employees the reason he had to end the meeting on time was to attend a fundraiser for Romero. He also noted it was good to support commissioners because they approve his office budget.

The PDC interviewed four of Drew’s employees at the meeting in question. None said explicitly that he or she felt pressured to donate to Romero or Kathleen Drew. But two managers quoted Drew as saying it “would be nice” if they contributed to Romero and two implied that contributions could help with the agency’s budget requests.

State law prohibits use of state facilities to further a campaign and public officials from knowingly soliciting contributions “directly or indirectly.”

Richard donated $50 to Wyman’s campaign in 2012 but told a reporter last year that it was irrelevant to her complaint because she kept politics out of her office work.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 bshannon@theolympian.com www.theolympian.com/politicsblog

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