Highline bond issue proponent complains of violations of disclosure law


EDITOR’S NOTE: This report was updated on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015

by Jack Mayne

The Highline Citizens for Schools has filed a complaint with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission claiming the opponents to the narrowly-defeated bond issue failed to properly file as a political action committee, which it denies.

The bond issue last November fell less than 1 percent short of passage, or by a margin of only 215 votes, failing to reach the state required 60 percent approval.

Lois Schipper, president of the Highline Citizens for Schools, said in a telephone interview with The B-Town Blog on Monday (Jan. 12) that she had been informed by the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) only last Friday (Jan. 9) that it had accepted her group’s challenge. It took several phone calls and follow-ups to get the complaint acknowledged by the commission, she said.

On Tuesday, by telephone, Philip Stutzman of the Public Disclosure Commission said the complaint is dated Oct. 7, but was not found until much later, leading to the acceptance of the complaint. Schipper said her committee first filed a complaint on Oct. 7 and followed up on Nov. 30 but did not get official word of its acceptance until last week, she said.

Stutzman said he could make no comment on the nature or specifics of the case while it is pending, nor could he comment on the timing of a decision.

The Highline Citizens for Schools (HCS) charges Sensible Spending on Schools (SSOS) with illegally operating a campaign to defeat Highline’s capital improvement bond on last November’s ballot, and never filing financial records with the state, as required by law.

‘Smear Campaign’
Schipper said that Stutzman, PDC director of compliance, said the SSOC is accused of “failing to register and report as a political action committee in its efforts to oppose a Highline School District bond measure.”

On Tuesday, Jan. 13, Stutzman said he had never talked directly with Steele but the information comes from the boilerplate letter sent accepting the complaint.

Sensible Spending on Schools denied the accusation. Its leader, Karen Steele, said the charge was “a smear campaign to try to discredit those who oppose Proposition 1 and a public relations attempt … to gain more notoriety in the media.”

Karen Steele of Sensible Spending on Schools (SSOS) said she has received a request from the PDC for more information on SSOS, “which we are complying with.”

“As originally directed by the PDC, we are registered with the Washington State Department of Revenue. All donations received are in a segregated account and every penny received or spent is detailed and accounted for.

Stutzman could not comment because the case is now ongoing before the commission.

“There has never been an attempt on the part of SSOS or anyone working to defeat the School Construction Bond, Prop 1 to deceive anyone. I am confident that once the facts are revealed, it will be obvious that Lois Schipper and her group are resorting to dirty politics to account for why the School Bond failed in Nov. She was mortified that there was any opposition at all and how dare the public disagree.”

Law requires disclosure
State law requires individuals and groups that engage in political campaign activities to report revenue and expenditures as public records, so voters know who is backing or opposing measures and candidates, Schipper said.

“SSOS is hiding information from voters and violating the principle of free and fair elections,” she said. “It is time for SSOS to come out of the shadows and let voters know who they are and what they stand for.”

If passed, the bond would have replaced deteriorating, out-of-date buildings with safe, modern schools; built two additional schools to relieve increasing overcrowding and make room for lower class sizes; and funded desperately-needed repairs and upgrades to schools across the district.

A new measure is now slated for another vote on the Feb. 10. It is a similar bond proposal, trimmed by $9 million, along with renewal of the district’s Educational Programs and Operations Levy, which pays for basic education needs not fully funded by the state.

Schipper said Highline Citizens for Schools has filed all required records with the PDC.


Comments

One Response to “Highline bond issue proponent complains of violations of disclosure law”
  1. Sensible Spending on Our Schools says:

    SSOS Sensible Spending on Our Schools says:
    January 12, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    This is just another attempt by Lois Schipper and the Highline Citizens for Schools to muzzle the opposition. Apparently they resent our First Amendment Right of Free Speech.

    She was mortified that anyone would DARE oppose the school bond and now she is looking for the reason it failed. Plain and simple….the people have little faith in the HSDB to efficiently and responsibly manage the citizens’ money. This is nothing more than trying to get media attention and it will backfire. Sensible Spending on Our Schools is in FULL compliance with the PDC, have been in talks with Philip Stutzman, Director of Compliance and anyone who doesn’t believe this should call the PDC themselves. We have done nothing wrong except try to get the truth regarding this Bond out to the public so they could make an informed decision.

    This is not China and Lois Schipper should realize that the HCS does not have a lock on being the only ones to carry on a campaign. This bond is flawed and that is why it failed, plain and simple. She is looking to knock out any opposition and this is not the way to do it.

    She and the HSDB have carried out a campaign that just skirts the laws for propriety with the PDC.

    IF THE HCS DOES NOT PUBLISH A RETRACTION REGARDING SSOS BEING CHARGED WITH VIOLATIONS, WE WILL SUE THEM FOR LIBEL!

    NO CHARGES HAVE BEEN FILED AND THIS IS JUST LOIS SHIPPER RESORTING TO DIRTY POLITICS WITH LIES AND INNUENDOS. She is setting a disgusting example for our students. Way to go, Lois!

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