PORT ANGELES — A complaint to the state Public Disclosure Commission by Sequim-based Protect the Peninsula’s Future challenges Clallam County Health and Human Services over its participation in creating an oral health brochure produced by the Arcora Foundation, formerly the Washington Dental Service Foundation.
The environmental group claims the county agency and Arcora violated PDC registration and reporting requirements regarding the brochure.
Protect the Peninsula’s Future “believes that this Arcora brochure was created to be mailed to City of Port Angeles voters before November 7, 2017 to promote a yes vote on the fluoridation ballot measure [advising the city to restart fluoridation],” according to the complaint filed by Olympia attorney Gerald Steel on behalf of PPF.
Proposition 2 asks Port Angeles voters if the city should resume adding fluoride to the municipal water supply, a practice the City Council stopped in August 2016 in anticipation of the results of the advisory vote.
Arcora Foundation spokeswoman Diane Oakes said Friday the brochure was not and would not be mailed to residents.
Oakes said it was distributed to dental offices and clinics throughout Clallam County and at the Health and Human Services office at the county courthouse.
“There’s nothing related to a public policy vote or anything like that” in the brochure, Oakes said.
“This is something we are doing a lot across the whole state.
“The intention is really ongoing education.”
PPF President Eloise Kailin said Friday she did not know it was not going to be mailed until a reporter informed her Friday.
“We are relieved,” she said.
“We did not say it was, we said it might be” mailed to voters, Kailin added.
“We’re pretty careful about stuff like that.
“We believe that was their intent.”
PPF filed the complaint Sept. 15.
Public Disclosure Commission spokeswoman Kim Bradford said Friday that the PDC split the complaint into two parts that are being investigated separately, one related to Arcora and the other related to Health and Human Services.
The allegation against Health and Human Services is for alleged “misuse of public facilities to support a fluoridation ballot proposition in Port Angeles,” according to the PDC.
The allegations against Arcora are for potential failure to register as a political committee, failure to report expenditures in support of Proposition 2 and failure to list sponsor ID on political advertising.
The PDC requested responses from Arcora and the county that are due this Thursday, Bradford said.
Bradford said that if a full investigation and action by the commission itself is required, a decision on the allegations will “probably not” be made by the time ballots are mailed Oct. 18 to Port Angeles voters for the Nov. 7 general election.
Public Health Officer Chris Frank said Friday: “I don’t think it’s a valid complaint in any way.
“There was no plan to distribute it that I know of, other than Arcora planning to give it to some providers’ offices and dental offices and they wanted to promote it for the SmileMobile.
“All the costs were Arcora’s.
“It’s part of our ongoing efforts to improve oral health in Clallam County.
“Improving oral health was one of our priorities from the 2013 Community Health Improvement Plan.”
The fold-up brochure is titled “Clallam County Children Have Improved Oral Health” on one side.
“Optimal fluoride in water protects and heals teeth — improving overall health” is on the other side, with “SmileMobile” and “Clallam County Health &Human Services” logos beneath and Health and Human Services’ Port Angeles address below that.
Oral health has improved among Clallam County residents in the past 10 years because of increased access to water fluoridation, the brochure says.
The brochure repeatedly touts the benefits of fluoridation without referring to Proposition 2.
It says one reason county children’s oral health has been improved over the past 10 years is an increase in access to fluoridated water.
The city of Port Angeles was under a 10-year contract with the Dental Service Foundation that expired in May 2016.
The agreement required the city to fluoridate the water supply or pay for $400,000 in fluoridation system costs that had been covered by the Dental Service Foundation.
In the complaint, PPF says “to the best of our knowledge” Arcora is not registered as a political committee that can promote a yes vote on the ballot measure, is in violation of registration and reporting requirements, and that “significant funds” were used to develop and print the brochure.
Oakes said 2,500 of the brochures were developed and printed at a total cost of $2,033.
The complaint says Health and Human Services is promoting a yes vote by “co-branding” the brochure “and acting as a political committee without registration or reports.
“It is our understanding that such public agency support spending money to promote a yes vote on this ballot measure is not allowed by law,” according to the complaint.
The complaint also acknowledges that the money spent by the county agency “is small and reflects primarily the health officer’s time to consider and agree to the co-branding.”
Frank said he “spent very little time” reviewing a draft of the brochure.
Frank said Arcora first distributed it at an Aug. 10 Port Angeles School Board meeting to promote the SmileMobile and to present results of a state Department of Health Smile Survey on dental health.
“Anytime I can get someone to do something for free that promotes improved health in Clallam County, I take those opportunities,” he said.
PPF also did not know the brochure had been discussed at a public school board meeting more than a month earlier, Kailin said.
“We didn’t find out about it until a good time later, until someone leaked it to us,” she said.
PPF and the anti-fluoridation group Our Water, Our Choice! have opposed fluoridation, claiming it is hazardous to users’ health and violates citizens’ rights to choose what they ingest.
They claim fluoride is available in forms other than municipal water for those who want to use it.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].