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Thurston assessor Drew puts out statement saying he erred in expressing support for candidate during office meeting

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on Sep. 24, 2012 at 8:35 am |
September 24, 2012 8:35 am

Thurston County Assessor Steven Drew put out a formal statement early today in response to a formal complaint that he illegally urged top staffers to donate to a county commissioner’s re-election campaign while in a government meeting Feb. 9 in his agency’s offices. He also is accused of asking a staffer to dig into a complaint involving county Auditor Kim Wyman’s office that could help his wife Kathleen Drew in her race against Wyman in the Washington secretary of state race.

Steven Drew’s statement acknowledges there is some truth to the first allegation involving a solicitation of support for Democratic Commissioner Sandra Romero, but not the second involving a report of misconduct in Wyman’s office. The allegations are under review by the state Public Disclosure Commission.

“The truth is that I am a fan of Sandra’s. I supported her in 2008 and am supporting her in 2012. In my view, she brings precisely the wealth of experience, the right core beliefs, exceptional vision and leadership needed in county government. Nonetheless it was a rookie blunder for me to have brought up support for her with my employees,” Drew wrote in the statement I received this morning.

Drew added in an email accompanying his statement that Romero had nothing to do with the solicitation, which some Olympian readers have been concluding without evidence in their online comments.

Romero told me over the weekend she was horrified by the complaint, because it is counter to how the county officials operate; she also said she had no knowledge of what Drew might have done. Republican Andrew Barkis is challenging Romero this fall.

The PDC, which regulates campaign finance and has jurisdiction over allegations of misuse of public resources in campaigns, is assigning a staffer to investigate the complaint. Use of public resources or facilities to campaign is illegal. County human resources director Diana Townsend filed the complaint Aug 30 and the PDC posted it online – hereon Friday. A resolution is not expected before the Nov. 6 election, PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said.

My blog post on Friday outlined the allegations lodged by Townsend and is here. My print story published Sunday is here.

Here is the full text of Drew’s statement:

Attention: Brad Shannon 9/23/12
I understand that a complaint was filed with the PDC containing two allegations. I have the utmost respect for the Public Disclosure Commission and know that they will conduct a fair and impartial investigation. However, I have chosen to make the following statement in order to express with absolute clarity that Commissioner Romero has never asked or suggested that I should ask my managers or employees to support her campaign.
With respect to what was said at the end of a manager’s meeting back on February 9th of this year, it is true that I made a single off the cuff remark, on my own and only on this one brief occasion. This was not a planned remark and I had no intention of using my office to support Commissioner Romero’s campaign. Nonetheless, I made this remark in the context of why our meeting needed to conclude at the end of the work day, as I was headed to an event for Commissioner Romero. I remember saying something to the effect that supporting our commissioners is a good thing since they have budget authority. I regretted making the comment as soon as I said it and apologize for this oversight on my part.
The truth is that I am a fan of Sandra’s. I supported her in 2008 and am supporting her in 2012. In my view, she brings precisely the wealth of experience, the right core beliefs, exceptional vision and leadership needed in county government. Nonetheless it was a rookie blunder for me to have brought up support for her with my employees.
With respect to the second allegation, all of the work conducted in order to accurately respond to the involved constituent’s concerns was within the normal and regular conduct of my office. At no time was any energy expended by my staff for political purposes, nor have I ever directed any staff or managers to do so. Again, I have every confidence in the PDC to conduct a fair and impartial investigation and I look forward to cooperating fully with their investigation.
Steven J. Drew
Thurston County Assessor

Kathleen Drew is the Democratic Party’s nominee for secretary of state, and she faces Wyman on the Nov. 6 ballot.

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