Public Disclosure Commission investigators have been looking into the origins of Initiative 517 for more than a year, and they won't finish in time for the state commission's last regular meeting before voters decide on Tim Eyman's ballot measure.
While the PDC could call a special meeting, the case's absence from next week's meeting is "pretty likely" to leave it undecided by Election Day Nov. 5, PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said.
The PDC received a complaint in August 2012 from Sherry Bockwinkel of Tacoma and opened an official investigation in March 2013 into whether initiative promoter Eyman and other I-517 sponsors illegally financed the campaign's petition gathering with money contributed to another measure, 2012's I-1185.
A signature gatherer alleged he was fired for refusing to force his subcontractors for I-1185 to collect signatures for I-517 as well.
But the I-517 campaign denies that and says petitioners collected signatures on a volunteer basis.
Tax-limiting I-1185 had deep-pocketed business backers, while I-517 is opposed by many business interests. Among other provisions, I-517 would give campaigns more time to collect signatures and added protections from interference by property owners.
Bockwinkel called the delay a "total failure" by the PDC. "This is on the ballot in three weeks. Somebody's not doing their job."
Ballots were being mailed to voters Wednesday.
Anderson said several factors delayed the probe, including a lack of cooperation by people involved.
"It was pretty hard to get what we needed in the beginning," she said, adding that the PDC had to issue subpoenas, "and now there are a lot of other things that are taking the attention of the staff member" doing the work.
Eyman could not immediately be reached for comment.