Former-councilor files PDC complaint concerning OS mayor

Complaint alleges mayor allowed campaigning for police station bond at Sept. 26 council meeting

A former Ocean Shores city council member has filed a Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) complaint against Ocean Shores Mayor Jon Martin, alleging Martin violated city and state campaign rules at a Sept. 26 council meeting by allowing public comment in support of general election ballot measure, Proposition 1, a $12 million bond for the construction of a new police station in Ocean Shores.

Susan Conniry, who served on the council from 2018 to 2021, filed the complaint on Sept. 28, and the PDC opened the case on Oct. 7. Conniry alleges Martin violated both city council rules regarding public communication and the Revised Code of Washington 42.17A.555, which states public officials can’t authorize public facilities “for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of any person to any office or for the promotion or opposition to any ballot proposition.”

During public comment at the Sept. 26 council meeting, Conniry writes, the city administrator introduced Kris Runge, a citizen, as a public speaker under the title of “Prop-1 police building” and allowed him to speak for three minutes, during which he “actively campaigned” in favor of the proposition, according to Conniry.

According to a Sept. 26 council meeting recording, Runge encouraged the public to vote “yes” on the proposition multiple times.

“This will impact the outcome of the upcoming election,” Conniry writes in the complaint. “It is a very controversial issue. It has now lapsed into the public domain. These comments are favorable to the city’s interest and the yes campaign. By allowing these statements at a council meeting it assisted the person to voice his position and it gives the appearance of having the official sanction of the city.”

Following Runge’s comments, the city administrator introduced Conniry as a public speaker, who also addressed the topic of the police bond and questioned the language of the city’s ordinance relating to the bond.

The city passed ordinance 1083 on May 24, which added the bond to November’s general election ballot.

After Conniry finished her remarks, Martin discouraged further comments “campaigning or advertising” for or against the ballot measure.

“The debate should be outside this council meeting,” Martin said at the meeting.

“I should have probably gaveled the first gentleman,” he added.

The PDC provides subjects — Martin, in this case — a copy of the complaint and 14 days to officially respond.

According to PDC spokesperson Debbie Cafazzo, Martin has an Oct. 24 deadline to submit an official response to the complaint. In an email to The Daily World, Martin said he had been in conversation with the PDC and that he plans to meet the deadline.

“It’s my position that the claim/allegation made does not give the complete disclosure of the meeting events and the claim the city was providing the use of a city facility for campaigning is false,” Martin wrote in the email.

On Oct. 9, Conniry submitted a supplemental complaint with the PDC accusing Martin of similar general election campaign violations, alleging that Martin was “promoting the passage” of the police station bond during broadcast on KOSW, a city-owned radio station.

Conniry’s initial complaint and supplemental complaint are being processed in the same case.

Once the PDC receives Martin’s response, it has 90 days to either dismiss, resolve or prompt further investigation into the complaint.

The PDC “is committed to providing timely and impartial investigations of complaints concerning alleged violations of Washington’s campaign finance and disclosure laws” with a goal of enhancing “the public’s confidence in the political process and elected officials,” according to the PDC website.