Complaint alleges Lisa Callan violated public disclosure laws
October 15, 2013
By Neil Pierson
Issaquah School Board candidate Lisa Callan didn’t follow Washington’s public disclosure laws regarding her campaign’s finances, a complaint filed with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission alleges.
Callan, who is facing incumbent Alison Meryweather in the Nov. 5 general election, has been filing reports of cash contributions since her campaign officially began in May. However, she hadn’t filed a single expense report until Oct. 10, a day after the PDC notified her through the mail of the complaint.
Janet Suppes, a budget analyst with the Bellevue School District and longtime public education advocate, filed the complaint with the PDC on Sept. 18.
In a letter, Suppes explained that Callan’s campaign had actively solicited funds during a June 25 event at Issaquah’s Blakely Hall, and at the city’s July 4 parade. Her supporters had distributed numerous campaign materials, including yard signs, magnets, stickers and buttons.
The PDC requires candidates for public office to submit an expense sheet, known as a C-4 report, on several occasions during their campaigns. Following the Aug. 6 primary election, the next C-4 was to be submitted by Sept. 10, and Callan’s report listed no expenses for campaign materials.
Callan said she didn’t know of any problems with public disclosure until Oct. 9, when she received a notice from the PDC in the mail. She immediately contacted her campaign treasurer, Alisa George, to straighten out the situation.
Since then, Callan has reconciled her expense sheet on the PDC website. She said her latest totals of $8,493 in contributions and $3,376 in expenses are accurate to the best of her knowledge. She has spent $1,170 on 300 signs that have been posted throughout the Issaquah School District, and less than $200 on a variety of items including pencils, stickers, business cards and flyers.
Callan said George misunderstood PDC rules and believed the reports didn’t need to be submitted until Oct. 15.
“Definitely, a mistake was made and we need to address it,” she said. “I don’t know what the PDC will say about that, but it appears I’m in the wrong.”
Candidates for public office are required to select a full reporting option with the PDC if they’re planning to raise and spend more than $5,000 on a campaign. Meryweather, who has held the school board’s Position 4 seat since her appointment in March, chose a mini reporting option. She doesn’t have to submit detailed expenses and contributions, but she also can’t raise more than $5,000 or accept more than $500 from any donor.
Lori Anderson, the PDC’s communications and training officer, said penalties for violating public disclosure laws vary significantly. The maximum penalty is $10,000 per violation, but in cases like Callan’s, the commission would likely look only at the dollar amounts involved.
Anderson also said in cases filed close to the general election, the PDC’s policy is to seek immediate corrective action from a candidate before launching an investigation.
The PDC only meets once a month, and all parties involved in a complaint are given time to respond prior to a hearing. Because the complaint against Callan wasn’t filed until mid-September, Anderson said, a potential investigation wouldn’t begin until after the Nov. 5 election.
“The timelines for getting in front of the commission, they’re too tight,” she said. “I know it’s frustrating for people to file a complaint and think we can do something about it right then and there, but it’s about due process.”