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Prosecutor asked to investigate claims against Seattle $15 minimum wage opponents

Backers of a $15 minimum wage in Seattle are asking the King County Prosecutor to investigate allegations signature gatherers for a referendum that would put the measure on the November ballot are making fraudulent claims.

In a letter sent Tuesday to King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, the group Working Washington alleges signature gatherers for Forward Seattle, a group opposed to the $15 minimum wage, have told voters the measure would raise the minimum wage.

“The reports are telling people that it’s to raise the minimum wage and all sorts of stuff that’s just not true,” says Sage Wilson with Working Washington.

Wilson’s group was among those supporting the $15 minimum-wage ordinance approved by the City Council and signed into law by Mayor Ed Murray in early June.

The measure, which takes effect in April, would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over seven years.

Wilson says state law is clear that it is illegal to interfere with the right of any voter to sign or not sign an initiative by threats, intimidation or any other “corrupt means or practice.”

He says the group has documented nine examples of misleading statements by Forward Seattle signature gatherers at eight different Seattle locations.

“It seems to really be a systematic problem. It seems like there is training going on, we suspect, to intentionally mislead voters into signing something they do not support,” Wilson says.

But Katrina Tugadi, a Seattle small business owner and co-chair of Forward Seattle, says the referendum is clear and there is no effort to mislead voters.

“I think it’s a manufactured problem by somebody trying to stop voters from having a voice,” Tugadi says.

Tugadi says the group has provided a fact sheet for signature gatherers that clearly says the measure would put the minimum wage to a public vote. She says they plan to turn in more than the required 16,500 signatures Wednesday.

While the group has raised more than $46,000 to pay for signature gathering, Tugadi says there’s no incentive for them to gather signatures fraudulently that would ultimately be disqualified.

“That doesn’t benefit them or their company or their campaign. It doesn’t help them to get signatures that aren’t real or aren’t good or aren’t fair.”

A spokesman for Satterberg says the office has received the complaint from Working Washington and is reviewing it.

KIRO Radio’s Jillian Raftery contributed to this report.

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