By Natalie Johnson / firstname.lastname@example.org
Centralia Police Chief Carl Nielsen filed a complaint with the state Public Disclosure Commission earlier this month alleging that the husband of county clerk candidate Carla Shannon improperly used a police vehicle for political advertising.
“We need to stay apolitical with things,” Nielsen told The Chronicle. “I filed it just … for transparency.”
An internal investigation concluded that Centralia Police Sgt. James Shannon was responsible for placing the election signs on the city vehicle, Nielsen wrote in his complaint to the PDC.
James Shannon is Carla Shannon’s husband and campaign manager.
Carla Shannon told The Chronicle Wednesday the campaign sign placement on a police vehicle was essentially a misunderstanding.
“Both candidates were solicited for a donation for the Special Olympics,” she said, noting fellow candidate Scott Tinney’s name was on the event T-shirts.
“We were offered advertising space on a support vehicle,” she said.
Shannon said at some point, one of her magnetic signs was placed on a police department-owned vehicle.
“Everything we did was in good faith,” she said.
According to the complaint, filed July 7, two signs reading “Elect Carla Shannon Lewis County Clerk (R)” were placed on a Centralia Police Department vehicle June 1 during the Lewis County Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run.
The vehicle, which Nielsen said is the department’s inmate transport van, was driven during the event by an officer in uniform.
Nielsen initiated an investigation into the incident after it was brought to his attention, he wrote in the complaint.
Nielsen said the incident possibly violated both state law regarding campaigns as well as department policy.
“The evidence is there to support the violation by Sgt. Shannon,” he said.
Nielsen’s complaint to the PDC specifically cited RCW 42.17A.555, which prohibits campaigns from using public facilities, such as publicly owned vehicles, for campaign purposes.
The Centralia police investigation regarding the actions of Shannon is not yet complete, pending an interview with him, Nielsen said. Shannon is currently on leave.
An investigation into a second officer’s conduct in the matter has been completed but disciplinary action has not yet been taken, Nielsen said.
Kim Bradford, communications and outreach director at the PDC, said the agency’s investigation into the complaint is still in its early stages.
She said the PDC has not yet received a response from Carla Shannon’s campaign on the complaint.
Depending on the findings of the PDC’s investigation, the agency could find the complaint does not have merit, issue a warning letter to the candidate, or ask the candidate to sign a letter acknowledging the violation.
“There are a number of steps they can take,” she said.
Serious violations are considered by the commission itself, she said.