Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor City Councilmember Joel Servatius’s campaign signs, seen here in dark blue and yellow, on hand during the Fourth of July parade. The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce gave free spots to city council members and other politicians to show civic pride.

Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times Oak Harbor City Councilmember Joel Servatius’s campaign signs, seen here in dark blue and yellow, on hand during the Fourth of July parade. The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce gave free spots to city council members and other politicians to show civic pride.

Campaign signs create stir during Oak Harbor 4th of July parade

Joel Servatius resolved a conflict of interest by paying the Fourth of July parade entrance free.

An Oak Harbor City Council member resolved an apparent conflict of interest or violation of campaign laws by paying the entrance fee for the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce’s Fourth of July parade after the event.

The chamber gave out free spots in the procession to city council members as well as the mayor and other politicians.

Most participants just waved to the crowd and showed their civic pride, but Councilmember Joel Servatius also brought his dark-blue-and-yellow campaign signs.

Servatius is running for re-election this year.

In general, nonprofits are not supposed to support political candidates’ campaigns indirectly or directly, although federal law is more lenient with trade groups such as chambers of commerce. Prohibitions may cover everything from paying for a candidate’s campaign materials to allowing the use of office stationery, according to state and federal campaign laws.

Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vicki Graham said she did not know Servatius had brought his campaign signs until he passed the viewing stand.

“The Chamber is taking the appropriate actions internally,” Graham wrote in an email about the organization’s response.

Servatius, who is also on the chamber’s executive board, later said he paid the entrance fee.

As a member of the council, he has voted to give the chamber large sums of money from the city’s lodging taxes. Elected officials are supposed to recuse themselves if they could gain financially from an action or are financially tied to an entity, which could include a parade entry fee.

Shane Hoffmire, who is running against Servatius in the Novembe relection for his city council seat, had tough words for his opponent.

“I am concerned with the lack of judgment and questionable decision making,” Hoffmire said in an email. “I believe him to be out of touch with the needs of our community. Further, putting ones own needs in front of those we seek to represent is not morally right.”

It is not the first time that a political candidate’s presence in a parade has caused controversy. Former Island County Commissioner Mac McDowell asked his assistant to secure him a spot in the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce Memorial Day parade in 2008. He violated a state law that prohibits elected public officials from using their office for their election campaigns.

McDowell admitted his mistake and apologized.

Servatius briefly said in an email that he had paid the fee but didn’t respond to followup questions.

People can report campaign violations to the state Public Disclosure Commission, an agency that tracks campaign contributions and spending, online at pdc.wa.gov.

Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce photo
Oak Harbor City Councilmember Joel Servatius’s recieved free entrance in the Fourth of July parade from the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce. His electoral campaign signs also made an appearance. Behind him, Councilmember Jim Woessner pulling a wagon.

Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce photo Oak Harbor City Councilmember Joel Servatius’s recieved free entrance in the Fourth of July parade from the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce. His electoral campaign signs also made an appearance. Behind him, Councilmember Jim Woessner pulling a wagon.

More in News

School buses crash with students on board but no one injured

The buses weren’t seriously damaged and were able to complete their routes later in the afternoon.

Fundraiser set for firefighter who suffered a stroke

A fundraiser for Daniel Hovelsrud, 28, has raised almost $20,000 to help him with medical expenses.

Port to hold public hearing about proposed tax levy

The Port of Coupeville is seeking community input about creating an industrial development district.

South Whidbey public records advocate blasts cities’ incomplete, litigious responses

South Whidbey resident Eric Hood has collected around $1 million in Public Records Act lawsuits.

Wanted child molest suspect back in jail

Michael Cheatham of Oak Harbor, 39, has been charged with multiple counts of child molestation.

Two Whidbey residents were injured in a two car crash on Highway 20 Monday morning. (Photo provided by North Whidbey Fire and Rescue)
Two injured in Highway 20 collision Monday morning

Two Whidbey residents were injured when a car struck another car that was turning onto Highway 20.

See caption
Friends of the Langley Library celebrating 100 years

A charitable group that has survived one whole century in Langley will be celebrating this weekend.

Fire, police chiefs lobby for building improvements

Oak Harbor’s growth has impacted the fire and police departments’ abilities to maintain service.

Dragon boat club to honor late teammates on Saturday

Local paddlers will honor two late teammates in the best way they know — in full dragon boat regalia.

Most Read