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Sept. 24, 2020

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Battle Ground councilor files complaint against council candidate

By , Columbian Staff Writer
Published:
3 Photos
Councilor Philip Johnson, left, filed a PDC complaint against Shauna Walters, who is running for a different seat on the city council.
Councilor Philip Johnson, left, filed a PDC complaint against Shauna Walters, who is running for a different seat on the city council. Photo Gallery

Battle Ground Councilor Philip Johnson has filed a complaint with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission against city council candidate Shauna Walters, who thinks the complaint was filed due to a disagreement the two had at a meeting earlier this year.

Johnson has served on the council since 2012, including a two-year term as mayor in 2016 and 2017, and is running for re-election for Position 7 against Katrina Negrov and Josh VanGelder. Walters is running for Position 3 on the council against Candy Bonneville and Neil Butler.

In his complaint, Johnson alleges that Walters received a larger donation than allowed for a campaign with a “mini reporting option.” According to the PDC’s website, a mini campaign is one where the candidate “will raise and spend no more than $5,000,” “will receive no more than $500 from any one contributor other than themselves,” and “does not file contribution and expenditure reports,” although the candidate must keep records of campaign contributions and expenditures.

Johnson filed his complaint with the PDC office on Friday, alleging that Walters not only accepted a donation larger than $500, but also failed to apply for a change from mini reporting to full reporting prior to exceeding the contribution limit. He also alleges she exceeded $300 in anonymous donations, which goes against state law.

The donations list Johnson cited in his complaint came from www.fundrazr.com, a website Walters has used to do the bulk of her fundraising. She received a $1,000 donation on May 23. Walters responded Friday to the PDC, writing in an email that when she set up her account, she did not set the control to limit the donation amount. She attended a PDC compliance class in May, and the instructor advised her to refund those who donated more than $500.

Walters sent the PDC and The Columbian screenshots of a Facebook conversation from May 23 with the woman who donated $1,000. Walters told the donor that she would refund half of it. Walters also received a donation for $623.31 on May 20. Included in her response to the PDC and The Columbian, Walters sent copies of her checkbook showing checks written for refunds in the amounts of $500 and $123.31 to each respective donor.

The $350 anonymous donation that caught Johnson’s eye also now has a name attached to it, and it’s Walters’ mother. Walters said she wasn’t sure why her mother originally donated anonymously, but said she might have done so to keep her name off the internet.

Walters said she was surprised when she found out about the complaint Friday evening.

“There were other courses of action he could’ve taken,” she said. “He chose to pull out the big guns and go full investigation. He could’ve requested to see my records.”

Johnson said the public can’t request records until it’s 10 days out from an election, and he worried he wouldn’t receive them until much closer to the primary.

Even though he’s not running against Walters, Johnson said he filed the complaint because “honesty matters.” Johnson has had a few run-ins with Walters and some her supporters at Battle Ground City Council meetings in recent months, as they pushed for the city council to declare Battle Ground a sanctuary city from Initiative 1639, a firearms initiative passed by Washington voters last year.

“They’ve taken quite a few shots at me,” he said. “You take a few shots at somebody, and you should expect a few back.”

Earlier this year, Walters formed the North County Sons and Daughters of Liberty in response to Initiative 1639. Walters and VanGelder have both been active in attending various city council meetings to speak out against the new law.

In June, Walters led a group in Yacolt, where the town council voted to declare Yacolt a sanctuary from I-1639. At a Battle Ground council meeting on May 6, Walters spoke during public comment time about 1639, and called out Mayor Mike Dalesandro and Johnson by name.

“To Mayor Dalesandro and Councilor Johnson, I am extremely disappointed in the condescending manner in which you addressed your constituents at the last council meeting,” she said, according to a video of the meeting posted on Facebook. “I would remind you that you do not rule over us. Rather, your power is given to you by the voters of this city.”

Johnson told the group that if they don’t like the law, they should work to get a repeal effort on the statewide ballot, something Walters and others have said could take years to do. He also said he felt it would be “voter nullification” to go against 1639, as it passed with 59 percent of the vote, including 54 percent in Clark County.

Walters feels Johnson’s complaint was filed partly due to their interaction at city council meetings in the last few months. Johnson didn’t back away from that, saying that he’s a fighter. He’s coming up on the 15th anniversary of retirement from the Army after serving 25 years.

“They wrap themselves in the Constitution and the flag,” he said. “There’s room in both of those for everyone. I believe in the Constitution as well. I spent a career defending it.”

Should they both win their elections and start serving together next year, they have somewhat differing thoughts on how it could go.

“We’ll at some point we will have to sit down and get this all out in the open and have a conversation with each other instead of across a dais,” Walters said. “I’m happy to do that. With anything, communication can fix it.”

Johnson wasn’t sure there would be a grand “‘Kumbayah’ moment” in the future.

“I don’t really sing ‘Kumbayah’ very much,” he said. “We’ll be co-workers.”

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