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News / Clark County News

Stonier settles disclosure complaint

Penalty is for failing to properly report campaign finances

By Jake Thomas, Columbian political reporter
Published: February 2, 2018, 8:46pm

State Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, has agreed to pay a civil penalty for failing to properly report campaign contributions and expenditures as required by state law.

The settlement is the result of actions by conservative activist Glen Morgan. Since 2016, Morgan has filed hundreds of complaints primarily against Democratic politicians and political committees with Public Disclosure Commission, the state’s elections monitor. Some of those complaints he’s followed up with lawsuits, including one he filed against Stonier in December.

On Jan. 31, Stonier, represented by Walter Smith, entered into an agreement with Morgan, who is represented by Vancouver attorney Angus Lee.

Under the agreement, Stonier and her candidate committee were assessed a civil penalty of $2,900 for failing to report campaign contributions and expenditures on time. The agreement states that $1,450 of the penalty will be suspended on the condition that for the next two years neither she nor her candidate committee violate the portion of state law concerning campaign finance disclosures.

The agreement also states that Stonier and her candidate committee will pay $3,315 to Lee’s law firm for fees and costs.

“Representative Stonier violated the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws just like so many other elected officials,” Morgan said in a statement through his attorney. “Hopefully, by settling this case and paying her fine to the state, she can improve her compliance with the law moving forward. I am optimistic both she and her campaign staff will recognize the importance of the public disclosure rules in the future.”

Stonier said that election seasons are very busy times and it’s common for mistakes like this to be made whether a campaign is managed by an unpaid volunteer or a certified public accountant.

“This is very typical,” she said.

Although she described the mistakes made by her campaign as minor, she said that she will work with her campaign treasurer to give themselves more time to file reports and to have more checks to remain in compliance. She also said she is committed to transparency and that all of her campaign finance reports were filed.

“There was no failure to disclose,” she said. “The timing was off but every dollar was accounted for in my campaign.”

The agreement stems from a citizen action lawsuit filed by Morgan in Thurston County Superior Court in December. Citizen actions are essentially lawsuits filed by private individuals on behalf of the state.

Before filing a citizen action, an individual must give notice to both the state Attorney General’s Office and the local Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. If neither takes action within 45 days, the citizen may initiate a lawsuit on behalf of the state.

According to the lawsuit, neither offices of Attorney General Bob Ferguson nor Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik (both Democrats) took action and Morgan filed suit.

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The lawsuit alleged that in 2016 Stonier and her campaign committee were a total of 68 days late in filing campaign contribution reports for an amount totaling $2,437. It also states that Stonier and her committee were a total of 95 days late in filing campaign expenditure reports totaling $9,083.92. As a result, the public was unable to view who was donating to Stonier and how she was spending the money, the lawsuit states.

Morgan filed a complaint against Stonier with the Public Disclosure Commission in September making similar accusations. The commission has not acted on the complaint.

Stonier said that’s notable that neither the Public Disclosure Commission nor the attorney general took action against her.

As for the money she has to fork over, Stonier said that it will initially come out of her campaign fund. But she said she doesn’t want her campaign donors to pay her legal fees, so she will have a fundraising effort to make up the money after the current legislative session is over.

Columbian political reporter