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Spokane sheriff critiqued for using county resources to announce endorsement

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich may have violated state campaign rules Tuesday when his public information officer issued a campaign-related news release at his direction.

State election law bans the use of public resources for the benefit of a political campaign.

Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Craig Chamberlin emailed a news release on Sheriff’s Office letterhead Tuesday afternoon announcing that the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenants and Captains Association endorsed Knezovich’s re-election bid.

Public Disclosure Commission spokeswoman Lori Anderson said the endorsement should have been sent out on personal time using a personal computer and a personal email address.

“They can do all the endorsement and campaign activity that they want but they cannot use the county resources to do it,” she said.

After he was told that he likely violated the rules, Knezovich sent out a departmentwide email Tuesday evening stating that the county email system can’t be used for any election-related activities.

“I didn’t think it was a violation,” Knezovich said. “I’ll make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Chamberlin, who sent the email, was apologetic.

“I got an email and the sheriff said to push it out,” he said. “I didn’t know. I’d never sent anything like that out before.”

Lt. Rob Sherar of the Lieutenants and Captains Association said he didn’t properly communicate the specifics of sending the message with Chamberlin.

“It was meant to come from the Lieutenants and Captains Association alone,” he said. “It wasn’t meant to come out on the sheriff’s letterhead, but it did.”

Knezovich said he didn’t realize sending the email was a violation because members of the Spokane County Deputy Sheriff’s Association often send campaign-related emails from official county email addresses. Those emails included an invitation for Knezovich to appear with his opponent, Doug Orr, at a meeting of association members and other law enforcement personnel. The Deputy Sheriff’s Association has endorsed Orr.

Sherar said he is also aware of the email activity by the Deputy Sheriff’s Association. A representative of the association did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday evening.