Almberg fumbles on campaign announcement
By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
April 18, 2011 · Updated 9:16 AM
Oak Harbor City Councilman Rick Almberg may have run afoul of state campaign laws when he used a publicly funded resource to broadcast his plans to seek reelection in the November general election.
Almberg announced his candidacy at a regular city council meeting April 5. But because council meetings are recorded and replayed on public television — a service paid for with the taxpayers’ dime — the declaration may have been his first mistake along the campaign trail.
“They aren’t supposed to do that,” said Lori Anderson, a spokeswoman for the state Public Disclosure Commission.
“Council meetings are not the forum for announcing that you’re running for reelection or for giving opinions, like what you think about a local school bond,” she said.
Washington law, under RCW 42.17.128, states, “Public funds, whether derived through taxes, fees, penalties, or any other sources, shall not be used to finance political campaigns for state or school district office.”
Almberg was out of town and could not be reached for comment for this story.
Whether Almberg knew his announcement would violate campaign laws is unknown. It’s also unclear whether he intended to make the announcement at the meeting at all. During a discussion of an unrelated issue, Mayor Jim Slowik jokingly asked Almberg if he was up for election. Almberg didn’t answer right away but later in the meeting confirmed that he was.
“Since the mayor let the cat out of the bag, putting me on the spot earlier, yes I am going to file for reelection” Almberg said.
According to Anderson, the commission would not go after a violation like this unless someone filed an official complaint. But even if one was filed, in this case Almberg would likely only get a warning.
While not a big problem, over the past few months there have been several instances in which elected officials have unwittingly used public meetings, or similar venues, as a platform for announcing their bids of reelection.
“The PDC doesn’t swoop down when they do that but it’s starting off on the wrong foot,” she said.
Almberg is at the end of his first four-year term. He was elected in 2007 when he beat out Oak Harbor resident Mel Vance for the job by earning an overwhelming 71 percent of the vote.
City council seats are non-partisan elected positions and carry a four-year term. Council members are paid a monthly salary of $596, provided a $650 per year travel budget and are eligible for a medical package.
A veteran of the construction industry, Almberg currently owns his own construction management company. Before his election to the council, he spent seven years serving on the Oak Harbor Planning Commission.
During his time in office, Almberg participated in several large decisions, including the SE Pioneer Way improvement project. He was one of four council members that voted to turn the street into an eastbound one-way.
As of Thursday, April 14, Almberg had not yet registered as a candidate with the public disclosure commission. By law, he has two weeks from the day he announced to do so.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Justin Burnett at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5054.