(By Jamie Henneman/Chewelah Independent)
Over $11,000 in fines, fees assessed…
A campaign finance lawsuit filed against the political committee that supported the election of Seventh District Legislator Joel Kretz was recently decided in court, with a judge fining the Committee to Elect Joel Kretz over $11,000. The court case, filed by former Washington State Senate Democratic candidate Karen Hardy, claimed that the Committee to Elect Joel Kretz violated campaign Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) laws by filing its campaign finance reports late. Hardy filed the case in a citizens’ action on behalf of the State of Washington after state lawyers declined to bring charges in the case. Hardy paid the fees to file the action in court and Seattle lawyer Walter Smith represented the state in the case on a contingency basis, meaning he would only be paid in the case of a judgment.
In documents filed in Thurston County Superior Court on Feb. 23, a judgment of $11,513 was levied against the Committee to Elect Joel Kretz in a default judgment because the committee failed to respond to the lawsuit. The amount includes over $1,900 in attorney’s fees for Smith. No funds will be paid to Hardy. The PDC claims against candidate Joel Kretz are still unresolved, as legislators cannot be served with any legal action during the legislative session, per state law.
Hardy said she filed the action in order for people to know “where the money comes from and where it goes.”
“The whole point of going through this process is to know where campaign money comes from and where it goes,” she said. “If Mr. Kretz, who is a member of the House that oversees the state budget, can’t manage his campaign budget of $100,000, how can he handle a $43 billion state budget? The PDC paperwork is pretty straightforward and easy to do but he obviously wasn’t paying attention. The PDC is one of the ways we can hold our elected officials accountable.”
But Kretz said he is not certain the judgment is valid and plans to take legal action against it.
“We are going to work on this and I believe the judgment may be vacated,” he said. “And when that happens, we may see some sanctions go back the other way.”