Newly elected Democratic state representative Scott White of Seattle will not be criminally charged for his county ethics violations, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg says, but the prosecutor has asked the state Public Disclosure Commission to investigate the case for elections-law violations.
A week before he was elected to the legislature Nov. 4, White was found to have used his county Department of Transportation computer and fax to work on his campaign for the 46th District seat. A King County Ombudsman's probe found an electronic trail of campaign-related entries on his desktop computer.
White said it was just a technology error, and that he'd learned a new lesson about interfacing. A bug in his handheld Treo digital assistant left a false trail when linked with his desktop, he claimed, making it appear he'd campaigned on county time. He said he did "not believe that I've ever worked on campaign or candidacy-related documents on my county computer."
But Ombudsman investigators clearly didn't believe his denial. Tests could not explain how the files could open without the user opening them, and a computer expert said some files were updated more than two weeks after the Treo had last interfaced with the desktop. (White would not allow an independent test of his handheld). The Ombudsman concluded there was "strong prima facie evidence, backed by forensic analysis, that Mr. White opened campaign files on his county computer."
In his Nov. 21 letter to the PDC, Satterberg said there was no evidence of criminal conduct but urged the state to review the case "for further investigation and potential enforcement action." That review is now underway.