Ethics Board right to uphold rules for legislators

The Legislative Ethics Board was wise last week to uphold rules against lawmakers using state resources for campaign purposes. The $5,000 fine it issued against Rep. Melanie Stambaugh, R-Puyallup, was large but sends a clear message.

Stambaugh repeatedly posted taxpayer-produced videos and materials on a personal Facebook page that also had campaign materials. Although she could have avoided sanctions by linking to the legislative pages containing the materials, she chose to lift and post the taxpayer-funded items — even after being cautioned by the Legislature’s ethics counsel.

The board found unanimously that the lawmaker violated ethics rules 44 times (each violation could have earned a fine up to $5,000). Stambaugh argued that the materials were also available online via YouTube or Flickr, but she missed the point that legislators must draw a sharp line between their campaigns and official state business.

The board said that without a clear line, an incumbent could simply order up videos or other materials at taxpayer expense, then use them in campaigns. And, it added, this “would enhance the power of incumbency in legislative campaigns.’’

State ethics rules evolved out of the major scandals of the early 1990s, wherein lawmakers of both parties in the House and Senate used state offices, telephones, and other public resources for campaigning and fundraising — to the tune of some $3 million.

Stambaugh may be right that rules need tinkering to reflect new social-media realities. But rather than work inside the system to change rules, Stambaugh chose to act outside those rules during what she must have considered the heat of a campaign.

This case should remind the Legislature to invest in stronger ethics training for its members.

Treasurer appointments make sense

Thurston County commissioners were unanimous in appointing Jeff Gadman of Lacey as county treasurer last week.

Gadman was among the finalists identified by the county Democratic Party to replace former treasurer Shawn Myers, and he was immediately sworn in Friday.

Myers had left to become assistant state treasurer in the office of Treasurer Duane Davidson. Davidson, a Republican who won statewide election in November, should be commended for establishing a bipartisan tone in his agency by naming Myers, who served previously in the state agency, to a leadership post.

Candidates for state or county treasurer run under partisan affiliations, but their work is nonpartisan or should be. Davidson, a former county official from the Tri-Cities, is walking that talk admirably.

We trust that Gadman, who faces election this fall to the remainder of Myers’ term, can follow the lead of Myers and Davidson.

Gadman said he is resigning both his position as administrative manager at the Thurston County Assessor’s Office and as a member of the Lacey City Council.

We thank Gadman for his 30 years’ service in the county assessor’s agency and wish him luck in the new role.