EDITOR’S NOTE: This report was updated on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 by Jack Mayne The Highline Citizens for Schools has filed a complaint with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission claiming the opponents to the narrowly-defeated bond issue failed to properly file as a political action committee, which it denies. The bond issue last November fell less than 1 percent short of passage, or by a margin of only 215 votes, failing to reachÂ the state required 60 percent approval. Lois Schipper, president of the Highline Citizens for Schools, said in a telephone interview with The B-Town Blog on Monday (Jan. 12) that she had been informed by the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) only last Friday (Jan. 9) that it had accepted her groupâ€™s challenge. It took several phone calls and follow-ups to get the complaint acknowledged by the commission, she said. On Tuesday, by telephone, Philip Stutzman of the Public Disclosure Commission said the complaint is dated Oct. 7, but was not found until much later, leading to the acceptance of the complaint. Schipper said her committee first filed a complaint on Oct. 7 and followed up on Nov. 30 but did not get official word of its acceptance until last week, she said. Stutzman said he could make no comment on the nature or specifics of the case while it is pending, nor could he comment on the timing of a decision. The Highline Citizens for Schools (HCS) charges Sensible Spending on Schools (SSOS) with illegally operating a campaign to defeat Highlineâ€™s capital improvement bond on last Novemberâ€™s ballot, and never filing financial records with the state, as required by law. â€˜Smear Campaignâ€™ Schipper said that Stutzman, PDC director of compliance, said the SSOC is accused of â€œfailing to register and report as a political action committee in its efforts to oppose a Highline School District bond measure.â€ On Tuesday, Jan. 13, Stutzman said he had never talked directly with Steele but the information comes from the boilerplate letter sent accepting the complaint. Sensible Spending on Schools denied the accusation. Its leader, Karen Steele, said the charge was â€œa smear campaign to try to discredit those who oppose Proposition 1 and a public relations attempt â€¦ to gain more notoriety in the media.â€ Karen Steele of Sensible Spending on Schools (SSOS) said she has received a request from the PDC for more information on SSOS, â€œwhich we are complying with.â€ â€œAs originally directed by the PDC, we are registered with the Washington State Department of Revenue. All donations received are in a segregated account and every penny received or spent is detailed and accounted for. Stutzman could not comment because the case is now ongoing before the commission. â€œThere has never been an attempt on the part of SSOS or anyone working to defeat the School Construction Bond, Prop 1 to deceive anyone. I am confident that once the facts are revealed, it will be obvious that Lois Schipper and her group are resorting to dirty politics to account for why the School Bond failed in Nov. She was mortified that there was any opposition at all and how dare the public disagree.â€ Law requires disclosure State law requires individuals and groups that engage in political campaign activities to report revenue and expenditures as public records, so voters know who is backing or opposing measures and candidates, Schipper said. â€œSSOS is hiding information from voters and violating the principle of free and fair elections,â€ she said. â€œIt is time for SSOS to come out of the shadows and let voters know who they are and what they stand for.â€ If passed, the bond would have replaced deteriorating, out-of-date buildings with safe, modern schools; built two additional schools to relieve increasing overcrowding and make room for lower class sizes; and funded desperately-needed repairs and upgrades to schools across the district. A new measure is now slated for another vote on the Feb. 10. It is a similar bond proposal, trimmed by $9 million, along with renewal of the districtâ€™s Educational Programs and Operations Levy, which pays for basic education needs not fully funded by the state. Schipper said Highline Citizens for Schools has filed all required records with the PDC.]]>
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