Commission complaint targets council head
Dozens if not hundreds of fliers left on cars and doorsteps against Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin’s campaign for state Senate could violate state disclosure law.
The black-and-white fliers that appear to be printed with a copy machine or computer printer criticize McLaughlin, a Republican, for her vote in support of revoking the alcohol impact area in the West Central neighborhood. One version of the flier said, “Nancy McLaughlin voted for fortified malt liquor sales over safe neighborhoods. We don’t need that kind of representation in Olympia.”
Earlier this week Curt Fackler, former vice chairman of the Spokane County Republican Party, filed a complaint about the fliers with the state Public Disclosure Commission because they don’t include the name of the person or organization responsible for them.
Fackler said he saw the fliers taped on doors in the neighborhood around Providence Avenue and Driscoll Boulevard while delivering signs for McLaughlin. He estimated more than 100 residences received the flier.
He filed the complaint against Kelly Cruz, chairman of the West Central Neighborhood Council. The council last year requested that the City Council create the alcohol impact area, which creates the potential for restrictions on the sales of fortified beer. But the neighborhood council recently reversed its stance. Cruz strenuously fought against the reversal.
State Rep. Andy Billig, the Democrat who is running against McLaughlin, said he was unaware of the issue until contacted by a reporter.
“Our campaign has nothing to do with that,” he said.
City Councilman Mike Fagan, who was recently the target of similar fliers, said some City Hall employees witnessed Cruz’s brother placing fliers against McLaughlin on cars near downtown.
Attempts to reach Cruz were unsuccessful.
Lori Anderson, spokeswoman for the disclosure commission, said that rules requiring disclosure on the fliers likely would apply, though the commission would have to decide if they were widely distributed enough to be considered “mass communication.”
Meanwhile, the Spokane Ethics Commission ruled quickly on Wednesday to dismiss a complaint filed against McLaughlin.
The Rev. Jim CastroLang, who leads the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Colville, filed a complaint alleging that McLaughlin violated city ethics rules when her campaign took an image from the city’s Web page or Facebook page and used it in a campaign mailer.
CastroLang, a Spokane resident who supports Billig’s campaign, said he acted independently of the campaign. He argued in his complaint that McLaughlin used city resources for her personal gain.
The picture in question was taken by city spokeswoman Marlene Feist when Mayor David Condon signed into law the current water rates with five council members in attendance.
Assistant City Attorney Mike Piccolo said the city considered the image in the public domain and not city property. Anderson said state rules also don’t prohibit such use of photos in campaign literature.