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Friday, February 23, 2024
Feb. 23, 2024

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PDC tosses Battle Ground councilor’s complaint against candidate Walters

Philip Johnson alleged in July that the city council hopeful violated campaign reporting rules

By , Columbian Staff Writer

The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission has dismissed a complaint filed by Battle Ground City Councilor Philip Johnson against Battle Ground City Council candidate Shauna Walters.

Johnson filed his complaint on July 22, alleging that Walters violated the mini reporting filing system by accepting a donation larger than $500, accepted more than the $300 state limit in anonymous donations and failed to apply for a change from the mini reporting to full reporting style of campaign.

According to the PDC’s website, a mini campaign is one in which a 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,” though the candidate must keep records of campaign contributions and expenditures.

In a letter released Monday, the PDC dismissed the allegations and said the commission “will not be conducting a more formal investigation into these allegations or taking further enforcement action in this matter.”

The letter, which is signed by Tabatha Blacksmith, a compliance coordinator with the commission, said mitigating factors that went into the decision were Walters’ status as a first-time candidate, her “good-faith efforts to comply with contribution limits” by seeking advice from the PDC, her actions to refund over-limit contributions prior to the complaint being filed and the relatively small nature of her campaign.

On May 23, Walters received a $1,000 donation. She was primarily raising money online, and said she did not set the control to limit the donation amount. She refunded half of the donation and another $123.31 to a different donor who gave her $623.31 on May 20, as seen in copies of checks she sent to the PDC and The Columbian after the complaint was filed.

A $350 anonymous donation was later amended to attach a name. Walters wrote in her response that while the donation appeared anonymous online, she could see the name and contact information for the donor, which the PDC staff backed up in their dismissal letter.

Walters and Johnson are two of four candidates vying for two seats on Battle Ground’s city council in November, though they’re not running against each other. Walters is running for Position 3 on the council against Neil Butler, while Johnson is running for re-election for Position 7 against Josh VanGelder. Johnson has served on the council since 2012, including a two-year term as mayor in 2016 and 2017.

Both candidates finished first in their respective races in the August primary.

Neither Walters nor Johnson responded to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Columbian Staff Writer