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PDC staff recommends no action on Kimsey complaint

Local GOP had complained auditor improperly stumped for charter

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Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey works in his office in Vancouver on Monday.
Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey works in his office in Vancouver on Monday. Photo Gallery

Washington Public Disclosure Commission staff found no evidence that Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey violated any laws or inappropriately used his position to campaign for the home rule charter prior to the November 2014 election.

According to a PDC report issued today, the commission staff will recommend no action against Kimsey as a result of a complaint Clark County Republican Party Chairman Kenny Smith filed last year.

The commission will vote whether to pursue further action at its meeting Thursday.

Smith alleged in the complaint that Kimsey, who is also a Republican, used his office to advocate for the passage of the charter when he put a two-page explanation of Proposition 1 in the general election voters’ pamphlet.

The PDC staff report, released Monday, said state law authorizes county auditors to provide information to voters in voters’ pamphlets, and that Kimsey was specifically directed in May by the Board of Freeholders to provide an informational summary of the proposed charter.

Kimsey “took steps to ensure that the information contained in the Voters’ Pamphlet was fair and objective,” according to the report.

Smith also claimed Kimsey “actively campaigned for the passage” of the charter by seeking campaign contributions from Clark County auditor’s office employees in support of the proposition.

Kimsey helped form Team ClarkForward, an organization that advocated for the charter. The complaint alleged that Kimsey may have directly solicited support from Clark County employees during Team ClarkForward presentations, and may have indirectly solicited donations by maintaining the organization’s website. The complaint did not, however, provide any evidence that Clark County employees were present at Team ClarkForward events.

The PDC staff was also unable to find evidence that Kimsey solicited donations or campaign assistance from his employees, according to the report.

The report also maintains that state law does not prohibit people from sharing personal views on candidates or ballot propositions, as long as they don’t use resources of a public office or agency.

The complaint was previously investigated by Clark County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jane Vetto. In a memo to the PDC in support of Kimsey, she wrote that Kimsey’s right to privately campaign is protected under the First Amendment.

“Mr. Smith appears to confuse Mr. Kimsey’s right as a private citizen to attend meetings and correspond with fellow citizens with activities (conducted) by a political lobbyist,” Vetto wrote.

Kimsey was unaware of the decision when The Columbian contacted him today, saying it was “news to me.”

“I’m very pleased that the PDC staff has conducted a thorough investigation into these allegations, and concluded that I carried out my responsibilities diligently, appropriately and legally in my efforts to retain the trust and confidence of citizens,” Kimsey said after reviewing the report.

Smith, meanwhile, said there is still some doubt as to whether Kimsey’s actions were lawful.

“It seemed like they were answering questions we hadn’t asked,” Smith said.

If the commission votes not to pursue further action against Kimsey, the complaint will be forwarded to the state Attorney General’s Office for a decision on whether any sanctions should be imposed. If the attorney general decides to take no action, Smith and the Clark County Republicans could file a lawsuit seeking to have Kimsey sanctioned by a judge.

Smith said it’s too early to say whether he’ll consider filing a lawsuit against Kimsey.

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