Judge to Eyman: Surrender tax records
EVERETT — Initiative promoter Tim Eyman must surrender tax records and other financial documents as part of a state investigation into alleged campaign fraud, a Snohomish County judge ruled Wednesday.
Eyman, of Mukilteo, had refused since November to comply with subpoenas demanding the records. Instead, his attorney told investigators with state Attorney General Bob Ferguson they should be satisfied by visiting his office to examine the records without making copies.
Attorney Mark Lamb of Bothell told Superior Court Judge Ellen Fair that to do otherwise would risk Eyman’s personal financial information one day becoming subject to public disclsoure.
Fair said she understood Eyman’s concern, but ruled the law is clear that state investigators are entitled to the records under subpoena.
As for Lamb’s worry that the Eyman records could be subject to disclosure under the state’s Public Records Act, she noted the law allows for Eyman to seek an injunction blocking release and opportunity to argue the materials should be exempt.
“Why would that process not work?” she asked Lamb at one point.
Ferguson is investigating allegations Eyman illegally shifted money among two initiative campaigns in 2012 and concealed payments he received in the process.
Among the issues being explored is evidence that Eyman used $170,000 raised for the political campaigns to pay for his personal living expenses, assistant attorney general Chad Standifer told the judge.
Ferguson wants personal tax records and bank receipts from Eyman as well as records for a limited liability corporation he set up named Tim Eyman Watchdog for Taxpayers. Ferguson also sought records and correspondence from two political committees Eyman leads, Voters Want More Choices and Help Us Help Taxpayers.
Lamb told the judge the records contain private information that shouldn’t be put at risk of disclosure.
That’s not grounds to ignore a subpoena, Standifer countered. The state’s public records law is clear on the process that would have to be followed before the documents could be released in response to a records request, he said. Not only would the agency have to determine whether the
records are potentially exempt from disclosure, Eyman also could go to court to argue against the release.
Eyman’s legal headaches arise from an inquiry that began in April 2012 with a complaint to the state Public Disclosure Commission. He was accused of improperly shifting money raised in support of Initiative 1185 to pay professionals gathering signatures for Initiative 517.
PDC investigators used emails, bank records and interviews to piece together a picture of how Eyman not only moved money between the campaigns, but also allegedly concealed up to $308,000 in kickbacks.
Commissioners for the election watchdog agency in September asked Ferguson to take the case. Part of their motivation was that the state’s chief lawyer could seek punishment more severe than the civil penalties Eyman risked from the PDC.
Standifer told the judge Wednesday that the attorney general’s investigation of Eyman is broader and covers conduct over a longer time than the period explored by the Public Disclosure Commission.
I-1185, which required any tax increase be passed by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate, was approved by voters in November 2012. It was struck down by the state Supreme Court. I-517 proposed changes to the state’s initiative and referendum process. Voters rejected it in November 2013.
Scott North: 425-3393431; north@heraldnet. com. Twitter: @snorthnews.