Two Spokane City Council members have apologized for using their city email accounts to send campaign messages.
Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart and Amber Waldref sent electronic newsletters to supporters recently that included their opinions on the three proposed measures that will be decided by voters in the city’s Feb. 12 special election.
The messages were sent via their city email accounts.
Lori Anderson, spokeswoman for the state Public Disclosure Commission, said government officials should not use government email accounts to promote or oppose items on a ballot.
Anderson said that if anyone filed a formal complaint against them, the violation would likely be considered minor if it was an isolated incident. The top penalty would be $500, though she said it would most likely result in a warning letter.
The campaign in support of Proposition 2, which would increase the threshold on the City Council needed to raise some taxes from four of seven votes to five, highlighted the violation in a news release earlier this week. Stuckart and Waldref oppose Proposition 2.
“Unfortunately, some politicians and special interest groups are spreading false information about Proposition 2 in an effort to confuse voters,” said the release from City Council members Nancy McLaughlin and Steve Salvatori. “And they are breaking state laws and rules while doing it.”
Stuckart sent his newsletter on Sunday. Waldref sent hers last week. Both said they didn’t realize the newsletters would be sent over their city email accounts.
Waldref said she uses the online newsletter service, MailChimp.
“Last week, I opted to provide my personal opinion on the ballot measures in the newsletter. With this in mind, I was extra careful to send out the e-newsletter on my personal computer,” she wrote in an email she sent to other council members. “But I must have forgotten to update the email address in the mailchimp program.”
Stuckart said he discovered the problem soon after sending his newsletter and informed city attorneys about the violation on Monday. He said he also has sent a messages apologizing for the violation to the same people who received the newsletter.
“If it was purposeful, I would not have admitted my error at 8 a.m. on Monday to the lawyers nor sent an apology to my 1,200 person list,” Stuckart said. “I did not use city computer or resources, only inadvertantly sent from the wrong address.”