Thurston County assessor Steven Drew admitted violating state campaign law Thursday and was given a $300 suspended fine by the Public Disclosure Commission.
Drew, a first-term Democrat, was accused by a former employee of urging four managers during a meeting in his office in early 2012 to contribute to the re-election campaign of Democratic Thurston County commissioner Sandra Romero.
Drew admitted last year that he made a “rookie” mistake by mentioning he was headed to Romero’s fundraiser while wrapping up a meeting with his top agency leaders at the end of a long day. But he has denied he broke the law or ever intended to solicit contributions.
In accepting the stipulated agreement between Drew and the PDC, commission chairman Amit Ranade said the fine is suspended on condition Drew avoids further violations through the remainder of his four-year term, which ends in December 2014. Drew was elected in 2010 and oversees the county’s valuation of property for tax purposes.
Drew did not attend the brief enforcement hearing in Olympia, but was represented by attorney Roselyn Marcus.
UPDATE: Drew issued a statement later that said:"I believe the PDC in issuing a small fine with the full amount suspended acted both reasonably and appropriately, given that this involves a single off the cuff remark, made at the end of a long day. I regret making the comment at issue and will strive never again to make the same mistake."
Records on file in the case say the PDC interviewed four of Drew’s employees from the disputed Feb. 9, 2012, meeting . None said explicitly that he or she felt pressured to donate to Romero's campaign. But two managers quoted Drew as saying it “would be nice” if they contributed to Romero’s effort, and two said he indicated contributions could help with the agency’s budget requests.
Six months later, one of four employees at that meeting, Lynn Richard, expressed concerns to the county’s personnel office, saying Drew had “urged” contributions. The human resources director then filed a complaint with the PDC.
“At the end of the day we concluded that the statements he made constituted a solicitation of a contribution,” PDC enforcement chief Phil Stutzman told the hearing, adding that it was not unusual to suspend all of a sentence. PDC records show 22 cases since 2001 where that has happened.
The agreement with the PDC says that Drew “has stated that he takes seriously the obligation not to knowingly solicit, directly or indirectly, a contribution to a candidate for public office or to use public resources in any election campaign, and that he did not intentionally violate any such restrictions.’’