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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

Group hits disclosure snag

Friends of the Spokane Valley didn’t report spending

The Friends of Spokane Valley organization joined the Spokane Valley Business Association this week in vowing to correct failures to report political expenditures to the state Public Disclosure Commission.

While the business association neglected to report spending on “Support Our City” signs, Friends didn’t disclose its spending to dissolve the city.

Treasurers of both organizations blamed misunderstandings of the disclosure requirements.

“That’s something we weren’t aware of,” Friends Treasurer Susan Scott said. “We’re going to get that fixed. We’ve tried to follow the letter of the law through the whole thing.”

The organization’s reporting lapse became apparent when another group, Citizens for Disincorporation, reported $4,973 of in-kind contributions from Friends of Spokane Valley.

Scott said her group thought it didn’t have to report the expenditures if Citizens for Disincorporation did so.

Friends of Spokane Valley was incorporated in August 2008 to lobby against the city’s Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan. A PDC staff member correctly advised the group it didn’t have to register or report efforts to lobby a local government. Only lobbyists at the state level are required to report.

But Friends leaders shifted their focus this spring toward supporting the ongoing efforts of Citizens for Disincorporation to collect enough signatures – half of the city’s registered voters – to force a disincorporation election. Public disclosure officials say fundraising and expenditures to influence a potential ballot measure must be reported.

The disclosure commission ruled in 1980 that a group trying to incorporate the city of Newcastle in suburban King County had to disclose its finances even though there was no ballot measure at the time.

Friends of Spokane Valley registered with the PDC on May 29. It identified its executive committee as Steve Wineinger, who is the group’s president, Dean and Liz Grafos, Jim and Susan Scott, Joe Jovanovich and Dan Geiger.

The group also revealed in several reports that it collected $10,500 between Jan. 4 and July 7. The largest donations were from Crown West Realty, which gave $5,000 on Jan. 15 and $2,000 more on April 20. Crown West owns the Spokane Business and Industrial Park at Trent and Sullivan.

At $1,000, Grafos Investment was the next largest contributor. Mark Henderson, of Pool World, gave $750 while Kerns Properties, of Coeur d’Alene, and Bill Berry Investment each donated $500.

Rob Gragg, Crown West’s vice president for asset management, considered supporting a disincorporation drive last year because of frustrations about building permits and fire code enforcement. But he agreed after meetings with Mayor Rich Munson and city Community Development Director Kathy McClung to “give everybody time to try and make this thing work.”

Susan Scott said she heard no complaints from any Friends donors after the group switched its emphasis from fighting the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan to dismantling the city government.

So far, Friends of Spokane Valley hasn’t told the PDC how it spent its money.

According to Citizens for Disincorporation, Friends provided in-kind contributions of $605 worth of newspaper advertising on April 6 – almost two months before Friends registered with the PDC – $2,605 worth of paid signature gathering on May 29 and $1,763 in additional signature gathering on June 30. The contributions totaled $4,973.

Scott said Wednesday that her group had spent most of the rest of its income. She said Friends spent about $1,550 for professional services – mostly legal advice – and about $3,150 for advertising and postage. Taxes and fees accounted for about $100, bringing the total to $4,800.

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