Clallam auditor under criticism for parking truck near election night drop box — with campaign sign visible

PORT ANGELES — A Sequim woman is pressing Port Angeles police to cite Clallam County Auditor Cathleen McKeown for parking her car where she did on Election Night.

It was bad enough that McKeown left it in the turnaround loading zone off Fourth Street, said Anne Doig.

Worse was that the truck — which bore campaign signs for McKeown’s re-election — was parked near the entrance to a polling place, namely the ballot drop box outside the Clallam County Courthouse and McKeown’s own office inside it.

Doig, who works for Clallam County Assessor Pam Rushton, said she noticed McKeown’s vehicle when Doig left a union meeting at the courthouse at 6 p.m.

Voters could continue to deposit ballots in the drop box until 8 p.m.

Doig told a pair of Port Angeles police officers about what she called a clear violation of election laws.

The law — entitled “Acts prohibited in vicinity of polling place” — forbids anyone to suggest or persuade any voter to cast a ballot for or against any candidate.

The officers, said Doig, told her the courthouse property was outside their jurisdiction.

They may never have observed where McKeown had parked, she said.

That led Doig on Wednesday to call the state Public Disclosure Commission, which forwarded her to the Washington Secretary of State.

It sent her to the Clallam County prosecuting attorney, whose office referred her to the sheriff, where she was told the courthouse is within city police jurisdiction.

“That’s where I’m at after rigmarole and rigmarole and going here and there,” she told Peninsula Daily News.

Doig said she’ll visit the police station today.

Police Chief Tom Riepe confirmed that the courthouse was within his department’s jurisdiction and said he doubted his officers had told her differently.

They might not have realized, he said, that they could enforce election laws.

“We will definitely take a report,” Riepe said. “If she believes she witnessed a crime, we will talk to her.”

Because the alleged violation is a gross misdemeanor, the chief said, it would be referred to the Port Angeles city attorney.

McKeown: No law broken

Meanwhile, McKeown says she didn’t break the law.

“I was not electioneering,” she said Wednesday. “I was not on the ballot, so how is that electioneering?”

McKeown and her opponent, Patty Rosand, won’t appear on the ballot until the general election that ends Nov. 7.

Doig said she is not campaigning for Rosand. She works for Rushton in the same courthouse as McKeown.

Last fall, Rushton ran against acting Assessor Mike Hopf. Each candidate and every assessor’s employee was warned not to display car-mounted campaign signs near the courthouse.

McKeown, said Doig, enforced that law but now is flouting it.

“She should be the one to uphold the law,” Doig said, “but here she’s breaking the law herself.”

As an elected official, McKeown need not answer to anyone else in county government, unlike Rosand, who is an employee.

“Had Patty Rosand done the exact same thing, she would have had to answer to the county,” Doig said.

Actually, Rosand has done so, said McKeown.

“My opponent has been parking her truck at the exits with her signs all along,” the auditor said.

But Rosand said she had parked her vehicle at the far end of the courthouse parking lot, near Peabody Street.

As for the campaign sign on her car, “when I came to the courthouse [Tuesday] night, I removed it,” she said.

Doig said she confronted McKeown after the Teamsters meeting over where the auditor had parked.

“I asked her to move her vehicle because I was offended by it,” Doig said, “and she refused.”

McKeown said she has parked close to the courthouse at night ever since Clallam County commissioners appointed her to the job in 2000.

“I don’t want to park out in the parking lot when I have to leave at 9 or 9:30 at night,” she said.

That made little difference to Doig.

“I’m a taxpayer and a registered voter, and this irks me,” she said. “I don’t feel it’s right.

“It really ticked me off that she (McKeown) would take advantage of a situation like that.”

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