LYNNWOOD, Wash., November 28, 2021 – Lynnwood city councilman-elect Joshua Binda is requesting more time from the Washington state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) in its investigation into alleged misuse of thousands of dollars in campaign funds.
In a November 22 email to the PDC which was sent just hours before the 14-day deadline to respond to the second compliant case filed November 8, Binda requests the PDC to provide a “filer assistant” as he is “very new to all of this and could use the help for both cases.”
“Thank you for your email and I look forward to continue working and cooperating with the PDC,” Binda wrote in the email to the PDC. “I am requesting more time as I will be making a further amendment to my PDC to make sure it is as accurately described as possible. I would love to be assigned a filer assistance specialist to continue to help me with the process as I’m very new to all of this and could use the help for both cases! Thank you very much and I look forward to hearing back from you.”
The Binda campaign sent its emailed response to the PDC less than two hours after the Lynnwood Times reached out to Binda requesting an official statement inquiring if he intends to address the two open cases for alleged violations of Washington’s campaign finance and disclosure laws (RCW 42.17A) and rules (WAC 390) against the Elect Joshua Binda campaign.
Binda failed to respond within the 14-day deadline to the first PDC case filed on November 1, 2021. In that case, two complainants allege theft or misappropriation of campaign funds for personal use (RCW 42.17A.445 and WAC 390-16-238) and concealment of expenditures (RCW 42.17A.235 and RCW 42.17A.240).
A second case, approved by the PDC, was initiated by the Lynnwood Times after Binda failed to produce the supporting documentation of his campaign account which is required by Washington state law, during the public inspection of books of account (RCW 42.17A.235.8 and WAC 390-16-043 Section 6) that was requested by the Lynnwood Times. Binda also failed to meet with the Lynnwood Times within the required 48-hour deadline to publicly inspect financial records (RCW 42.17A.235.6.a and WAC 390-16-043 Section 4).
Alleged misuse of campaign funds
It was reported first by the Lynnwood Times that Lynnwood City Council candidate Joshua Binda, 21, recorded almost $4,848.19 in expenditures towards rent, towing fees, concert tickets, jewelry, laptops, airfare, groceries, dental work, haircuts, and office furniture. In addition to these suspicious expenses, another $4,952.12 was lumped together and recorded as “Expenses of $50 or less.”
In a second article by the Times in the ongoing investigation into $10,000 in suspicious campaign expenses reported by Elect Joshua Binda campaign, it was reported that no supporting documentation, receipts, nor bank statements were provided and that 19 amendments to PDC documents were made after the Lynnwood Times requested to publicly inspect the books of account for the Elect Joshua Binda campaign in accordance with Washington state law (RCW 42.17A.235).
Binda shared during the meeting with the Times that he confused his campaign debit card with his personal debit card, stating they look similar, as the reason for some non-campaign related expenses such as a plane ticket and concert tickets. He also shared with the Lynnwood Times that he gave a “campaign volunteer” access to the campaign’s debit card which the volunteer used for non-campaign related expenses.
According to the PDC campaign reporting database, Binda has contributed $2,943.39 to his campaign, up from $967.89 prior to the Lynnwood Times telephone interview with him on October 30. In amendments to contribution reports submitted on October 31 and November 1, Binda signed off on $3,777.51 in increased campaign contributions not previously reported to the PDC possibly concealing campaign contributions from public disclosure in violation of RCW 42.17A.235 and RCW 42.17A.240.
Excluding Binda’s $1,975.50 sudden contribution to his campaign between October 31 and November 1, a total of $2,802.01 from 22 contributors in previously unreported contributions are now visible on reports and a $1,000 contribution for an Abraha Henok on October 8 is now missing.
According to the PDC campaign reporting database, Joshua Binda has signed off on a net reduction of $4,572.61 impacting 16 previously recorded expenditures to his campaign after the October 30 request by the Lynnwood Times to publicly inspect the Elect Joshua Binda campaign books. Between October 31 and November 1, seven amendments to expenditure reports were submitted by Binda possibly concealing/misappropriating campaign expenditures from public disclosure in violation of RCW 42.17A.235 and RCW 42.17A.240.
In analyzing and comparing the physical C4 Summary reports to the online PDC expenditure reporting database, all of the expenditures associated with the C4 Summary report for reporting period September 1 through October 11 have been removed. Technically, the entire reporting period has been purged and replaced with an amendment for a reporting period of October 12 through October 25.
The now missing September 1 through October 11 C4 Report contained $5,158.01 in suspicious expenditures for rent, groceries, towing, dental work, jewelry, a $163 haircut, and included $1,527.15 categorized as “Expenses of $50 or less.”
For a detail breakdown of the 19 amendments to Binda’s PDC documents click here.
The existing complaints allege theft or misappropriation of campaign funds for personal use (RCW 42.17A.445 and WAC 390-16-238) and concealment of expenditures (RCW 42.17A.235 and RCW 42.17A.240). Currently pending is a violation of RCW 42.17A.235.6.a for failing to publicly meet within the required 48-hour timeframe to publicly inspect campaign books, and another for not supplying the required source documents as required by Washington state law WAC 390-16-043(6). Additional violations for the concealment of contributions may be filed as early as Monday, November 8.
When asked of the enforcement process, Kim Bradford, Deputy Director of the PDC told the Lynnwood Times that within the first 10 days of a complaint, PDC staff reviews the validity of the violation claim. If there is sufficient information to support an allegation, a case is opened (posted on the website), and the respondent has 14 days to address the complaint. Staff will then review the respondent’s response and take appropriate action.
Bradford shared that most cases are resolved within 90 days administratively through a reminder, a warning or statement of understanding in which the respondent admits to a violation and pays a penalty.
However, for allegations that require an investigation, a formal investigation is initiated which may take months to resolve. The PDC has subpoena authority to obtain bank records and other source documents to aid in its investigation.
Complaints under formal investigation may lead to possible enforcement action. When and how that happens depends on the outcome of the investigation and if an investigation reveals evidence of a material violation of the laws or rules enforced by the PDC. If a stipulation or settlement is not reached, PDC staff may issue a notice of administrative charges and schedule the matter before the commission as an enforcement matter in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act.
Washington state law allows complainants to bring lawsuits in the name of the state if the PDC or Attorney General’s Office doesn’t act. If the PDC hasn’t resolved a complaint, referred the matter to the Attorney General’s Office, or opened a formal investigation and held an initial hearing within 90 days of a complaint being filed, complainants can file a 10-day notice signaling their intent to go to court.
The swearing-in ceremony of all newly elected Lynnwood City Council members is scheduled for December 13. The newly elected representatives will be responsible for a city budget of over $465 million.