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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Recall legal expenses must be open to public

Richard Roesler Staff writer

OLYMPIA – The recall-related legal bills of Spokane Mayor Jim West and the group trying to oust him must be publicly disclosed by Tuesday, the state’s campaign-finance regulator said Wednesday.

“It will be full campaign disclosure,” said Vicki Rippie, executive director of the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Two days earlier, the PDC had said that any fund-raising and costs associated with the legal fight over the recall were exempt from disclosure. But after further research, Rippie said, she concluded that those details must be publicly reported, just like other campaign costs.

“I didn’t think they were reportable and they are,” she said, citing a previous PDC order that covers recall procedures. “It was my mis-call.”

Commission staff were trying to reach West and his attorneys on Wednesday to tell them of the change. They also notified organizers of the recall effort.

Both sides will have to report all contributions, including cash and in-kind services such as free legal advice or donated space for a petition-signing booth. They’ll also have to report all spending. Rippie said the reports must detail recall-related costs and spending as far back as May, when Shannon Sullivan of Spokane filed petitions seeking an election to oust the mayor, who is accused of offering city positions to young men in whom he was sexually interested.

By Friday, both sides will have to file paperwork registering as political committees, Rippie said. The first spending and donation reports will be due Tuesday. After that, each monthly report will be due in Olympia by the 10th of the following month. The reports become more frequent in the weeks before an election, but no election has yet been set. Sullivan and her allies, Citizens for Integrity in Government, are still collecting the signatures needed to get the matter on the city ballot. The group needs more than 12,000 valid signatures.

Much of Sullivan’s legal work was donated by young lawyers in Spokane. West, who has had three lawyers fighting the recall, will presumably have much larger legal bills to pay. The mayor has said that he sold his Lexus and dipped into his retirement funds to pay those costs, and that he was considering borrowing money from his father.

The PDC was in a bit of a quandary Wednesday, wanting to notify West that he had to file financial reports soon, but not wanting to use his mayoral phone line for what could be perceived as a political campaign matter. State law prohibits using public resources for political campaigns.

“We’re trying to be sensitive to his position,” said Rippie.

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