I-27 campaign accuses King County of violating state law

Jul 19, 2017, 5:47 AM | Updated: 9:37 am
I-27, injection sites...
(File, Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
(File, Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Proponents of an initiative to ban safe injection sites are alleging the King County department of health actively worked to hamper their efforts and used public funds to do it, violating state law.

“The public is entitled to fair elections that are not influenced by government agencies, which is why Washington law is clear: an agency cannot use public facilities, much less actual taxpayer dollars, to support or oppose a campaign, including a ballot measure,” Joshua Freed wrote in a letter to State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.

RELATED: Flaws in anti-safe injection site arguments

Initiative 27 aims to ban safe injection sites in King County. It’s a timely initiative as King County currently has plans to place two safe injection sites for addicts to use drugs at — one in Seattle and another outside of the city.

Freed, a Bothell city councilmember has spearheaded the initiative effort to ban the sites before they can be implemented. It also has supporters such as Redmond City Councilmember David Carson, who recently authored an opinion piece in the Redmond Reporter.

Carson’s article set in motion a series of events that Freed alleges led to the Department of Public Health – Seattle King County violating state law after authoring an opinion piece of its own which the Redmond Reporter published. It also posted a link to their published response on Facebook. The department then paid to boost that post — essentially, a paid advertisement that Facebook shows to county residents. This is indicated on the social media site with a “sponsored” tag.

According to Freed’s letter to the attorney general, this is what happened:

  • April 17: I-27 is filed with the clerk of King County.
  • June 29: The Redmond Reporter publishes an opinion piece supporting I-27 by David Carson.
  • July 11: The Redmond Reporter publishes a letter to the editor from the Department of Health – Seattle King County. The letter counters Carson’s arguments in favor of I-27.
  • The department of health then posted a link to their letter to the Redmond Reporter on Facebook and paid to promote that post to King County residents.
  • July 13: Freed writes a letter to the attorney general demanding action.

Freed argues that the health department’s actions violate RCW 42.17A.555 which states government agencies cannot support or oppose a ballot measure, or use public funds to do so.

Freed is giving the attorney general’s office and the county prosecutor 45 days to act on the matter.

“Should both of your offices fail to commence an action within the statutorily-alloyed time period, I intend to bring civil action and seek the maximum amount of remedies allowed under RCW 42.17A.555,” Freed writes.

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I-27 campaign accuses King County of violating state law