Inquiries into county candidate’s campaigns

Nick Power at an election forum on Orcas in 2019.

Nick Power at an election forum on Orcas in 2019.

The Public Disclosure Commission is looking into accusations that Nick Power violated finance and disclosure laws during his run for prosecuting attorney.

The unresolved complaint alleges that Power was aware of a campaign law-violating advertisement that ran in the Oct. 24, 2018, edition of The Journal of the San Juan Islands. PDC Communications and Outreach Director Kim Bradford said the case is still being considered by the commission and will either be administratively resolved or formally investigated.

“As a candidate, Nick Power advocated for ‘transparency’ yet he and his supporters hide behind anonymity and the committee and he and his supporters have not complied with the rules of the Public Disclosure Commission,” said the accusation filed by Thrinley DiMarco of San Juan Island on Oct. 30, 2018. “Nick Power and his supporters should be leaders in setting an example for the community to follow the PDC requirements, not people who flaunt the rules to get ahead. Independent expenditures are not ‘independent’ when they are coordinated and made after coordination with the candidate, such as has been disclosed in the email.”

The Public Disclosure Commission provides public access to information about political campaign financing, lobbyist expenditures and the finances of public officials and candidates. It ensures compliance with and enforces Washington’s disclosure and campaign finance laws.

During the election, five complaints against Power’s opponent, incumbent Randy Gaylord, were filed with the commission and subsequently resolved without the need for further investigation.

Incumbent Sheriff Ron Krebs also had complaints filed against him — seven in total. He ultimately had to sign a statement of understanding that he violated RCW 42.17A.555 by wearing his official San Juan County Sheriff’s issued polo shirt in a photo in political advertisements sponsored by his 2014 campaign and driving his sheriff’s vehicle during his designated lunch time to order political signs from a local print shop during the 2018 campaign. He paid $150 in penalties for the infractions.

The email referenced by DiMarco in the grievance against Power was sent by islander Robert Allen and stated that the candidate approved the design and that Allen and George Von Gehr paid for the advertisement as part of a group of citizens in support of Power for prosecuting attorney lead by Allen. Two advertisements encouraging voting for Power ran in the Journal and are mentioned in the allegation – the second ran in the Oct. 31 edition, the day after the complaint was filed. DiMarco also submitted complaints about Allen, Pollard and Von Gehr regarding the same violations.

The Sounder reached out to DiMarco for a comment on the complaints she submitted to the commission.

“Everything I had to say was provided to the PDC,” she said.

A total of three violations were filed against Power. The other two violations were for delayed reporting of campaign contributions and expenditure reports, and misidentified expenses. Both of which are considered resolved by the commission and did not warrant an investigation.

According to documents, Power filed five separate reports one to five days late. The commission concluded this was an oversight by Power and was not done in a manner as to conceal campaign finances. A letter was mailed to Power and the complainant, San Juan Island resident Terrilee Brower, of its decision to not investigate further.

“Mr. Power is a candidate for prosecuting attorney and an attorney for Mr. Glen Morgan. He has brought four lawsuits in Thurston against Democratic Committees for late reports as short as one day,” Brower wrote in her allegation. “He knows the rules. Even if the mistake was inadvertent there should be some consequence.”

The second resolved case, also filed by DiMarco, was an error in identifying what entity two separate companies to which campaign expenditures were paid. The first, a total of more than $2,000 was originally disclosed as having gone to Washington State Department of Transportation, but Power clarified that the total was actually for the post office. The second amount, a total of $302.92, was billed from Netbrands Media Corp., a business through which campaign signs were printed.

“Nicholas Power made minor or ministerial errors on required reports, which did not materially impact the public interest,” the commission concluded. “Upon notification of noncompliance, Nicholas Power timely amended their reports, making the necessary technical corrections.”

The commission, a quasi-judicial body comprised of five governor-appointed citizens, reviews violation allegations and may impose penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

“The PDC should take strong action to send a message that a lackadaisical approach to the PDC rules will not be tolerated by those who choose to use last-minute advertisements and coordinate with the candidate,” DiMarco wrote in the still active complaint.

“It will be dismissed,” Power told the Sounder.