Judge to Ey­man: Sur­ren­der tax records

The Daily Herald - - LOCAL NEWS - By Scott North Her­ald Writer

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.

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