The failed campaign for The Link is drawing complaints from a former Kennewick mayor and a Pasco political activist.
Victor Epperly and Roger Lenk each filed complaints about how the campaign for a sales tax increase was conducted.
Both claims are in the early stages of examination by staff at the Public Disclosure Commission.
Had the tax passed Nov. 7, the money would have paid for an expansion at the Three Rivers Convention Center an upgrade at the Toyota Center and other upgrades at the Three Rivers campus in Kennewick.
The 0.2 percent increase failed by more than 10 percentage points, or 1,300 votes.
The commission began looking at Epperly’s claim at the end of October, and the investigation into Lenk’s complaint started this past week.
The men claim the campaign committee, Citizens for The Link Entertainment Center, and the Kennewick Public Facilities District didn’t follow state law.
Many of Epperly’s complaints focus on the campaign advertising.
He said the campaign’s mailers left out details about the project, failed to inform voters about what happened to extra money from taxes, and used architectural drawings paid for with public dollars in TV and newspaper ads.
The response from the district’s attorney, Leland Kerr, said Epperly’s complaints aren’t violations of law, and Epperly is making assumptions about the failed measure.
Lenk’s complaints revolve around a pair of procedural issues.
The first claims that the campaign for The Link started almost two months before Citizens for the Link Entertainment Center was formed.
The second says that the district’s executive director helped organize campaign efforts.
In general, the committee for a ballot measure needs to be formed within two weeks of starting a campaign, and no public money can support the effort, said Kim Bradford, a Public Disclosure Commission spokesperson.
The “no public money” rule can include:
- Employees being paid with public money organizing campaign efforts while on the clock.
- Paying to mail campaign materials.
- Letting the campaign have access to equipment the public wouldn’t have access to.
State law lets public organizations spend money on providing basic information about ballot proposals, such as what it will cost and what it will pay for.
But they can’t advocate.
Lenk’s allegations start with a July 9 email in which Corey Pearson provided a report about the upcoming campaign plans.
The campaign started spending money Aug. 30, according to Lenk.
Pearson is the district’s executive director. He also works for Venuworks, the company hired to manage the Three Rivers Convention Center campus.
The email, which Lenk claims was sent on time paid for by the public and using public resources, spends time discussing the “Vote Yes” campaign, and asks for money from Venuworks.
Pearson has not responded to email or phone calls.
Kerr is reviewing Lenk’s complaint, he said, and expects to have a response filed after beginning of the year.