The state Public Disclosure Commission issued warning letters Friday to three University Place residents for campaign violations.
The residents, Jim Clarke, Betsy Tainer and Scott McGill, are against the proposition to create a metropolitan park district in the city of 32,000 people. The measure is on the April 26 ballot.
Two people contacted the PDC with concerns about potential violations. One of the complainants was Jim Baldes, who helped lead the signature-gathering campaign to get the park district measure on the ballot. The other was Howard Lee, also a park district supporter.
The complaints included concerns that postcards mailed to residents didn’t list who sent them and yard signs around town don’t say who paid for them. There also was a question about whether a political committee had formed without registering with the state.
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According to state law, postcard mailers and other advertisements must list who paid for them so that voters can go to the PDC and look at who the top campaign contributors are, according to PDC executive director Evelyn Fielding Lopez.
That requirement does not extend to yard signs, she said.
In this case, the group of people that came together to oppose the proposed park district were acting in an ad hoc manner, which is why there were discrepancies in reporting, Lopez said.
But that doesn’t exempt them from political reporting requirements, she said.
“Even if it’s an uncoordinated community activity, they are required to register as a political committee if they are going to raise money or spend money on a campaign,” Lopez said.
Once they were made aware of the complaints, the individuals filed with the PDC. The PDC issued the warning letters, but didn’t pursue a formal investigation.
“It appeared to be grass roots by citizens rather than any organized campaign,” Lopez said. “We thought the best response was written warning.”
The written warning makes a record of the violation, allowing the PDC to look up that information if future allegations arise, Lopez said.