Former Sumner School Superintendent Gil Mendoza agreed Thursday to pay $2,000 in fines for failure to comply with Washington political campaign laws.
The state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) fined Mendoza a total of $4,500, but suspended $2,500 of the fine as long as he pays the remainder within two weeks of the commission’s final order, and commits no further violations for the next four years.
The fine grew out of the fall 2011 Sumner School Board race. The race took place just months after Mendoza had been ousted from his job by the school board, in June 2011.
The PDC and Mendoza agreed to facts in the case. According to PDC documents, Mendoza:
• Paid for and sent a mailer to more than 24,000 Sumner School District residents in October 2011. The mailer supported three candidates and opposed two others.
His total expenditures were more than $8,000.
• Failed to include his name on the mailer, instead listing a group called Citizens Advocating a Responsible Education System (CARES), which he said does not exist. He said he invented it as a pseudonym because he didn’t want to unfairly influence the election, based on his “reputable standing in the community and popularity as the former superintendent.”
•Filed required paperwork 14 days late.
Last year, Mendoza said he didn’t know a PDC filing was required for his election mailing until he was notified of a complaint to the PDC. He said he believed he was exercising his First Amendment rights when he mailed the campaign material.
The three candidates Mendoza supported – Paul Bucich, Casey Chamberlain and Richard Hendricks –
won their seats in the election and are now members of the Sumner School Board. A fourth board member, Sherm Voiles, was one of two people who complained to the PDC. Ron Weigelt, who lost the election to Chamberlain, was the other complainant in the case.