During last year's campaign, folks who saw Lake Stevens Republican Mike Hope in campaign brochures and TV commercials while he ran for the job of state representative in Washington's 44th District probably saw him dressed in his other job's attire: a Seattle Police Department uniform. But under Washington State law, candidates for office are barred from using "any of the facilities of a public office or agency" in promoting their campaigns.
Now an investigation has been launched into Hope's use of the uni, Seattle Weekly has learned. And while it's not the first time that Hope has been investigated--and exonerated--by an agency over his choice in attire, this time the investigation is coming from within the SPD itself.
Hope tells Seattle Weekly that he's "not worried," because he's been down this road before. He points out that the Washington Public Disclosure Commission has investigated him before for using his cop gear in campaign ads, and that he's been exonerated every time.
Indeed, a records search of PDC filings shows two investigations into Hope's use of his uniform during a campaign--both of which were eventually dismissed.
Lorie Anderson, a spokesperson with the PDC, says that these kind of complaints into candidates' use of public materials/uniforms/supplies are extremely common. But as we said, this time the Seattle Police Department is involved, investigating through the Office of Professional Accountability.
Seattle Police Spokesman Mark Jamieson confirmed the investigation to Seattle Weekly today, although he declined to elaborate on when it would wrap up or what kind of punishments could be handed down.
One of Rep. Hope's many campaign advertisement photos, complete with SPD blue.
Still, Hope says he's ready for whatever happens. "This is nothing new," he says. "Every year one person after another files a complaint about the uniform. And every year I'm exonerated. I'm not worried about it."
It's unclear who filed the complaint against Hope, but SPD appears to be taking it very seriously. In e-mails obtained by Seattle Weekly, SPD Sergeant Nathan Upton says that it's not the first complaint the department has received about Hope's choice of campaign attire.
That issue had been brought to the attention of this office by other concerned citizens and is currently under investigation. Thank you for your concern. We take matters of ethics very seriously and investigate those that are brought to our attention thoroughly.
So if Hope has been investigated and cleared by the state-elections watchdog in the past, what could be different about a police OPA investigation?
According to SPD's employee manual, there are several limitations on political activity by officers and employees. The language is similar to the state law against using the "facilities" of a public office, but the department rules appears to go further, prohibiting:
In some ads, Hope's SPD patch is blurred
Using office space, telephones, stationary, etc., at any time, to assist a candidate or to support or oppose a ballot measure
Also, in defining "facilities" that are barred from being used, the manual states:
City facilities include supplies, equipment, property, and City paid time, except vacation and holiday time.
Nowhere are police uniforms specifically addressed as being barred from being used during a campaign, but depending on one's interpretation, the "etc." part of the first sentence above might be seen to include them, as would the "equipment" part of the second one.
Still, Hope says that if all else fails, he has a bullet-proof defense: a letter from Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes' office, issued prior to the campaign, which says it's OK for him to wear the uni.
Holmes' office did not immediately respond to confirm the letter's existence.
At any rate, Hope blames the entire affair on his "enemies," and sees the investigation as nothing more than a product of political bitterness, likely directed at him from the local Democratic party.
Bill Phillips, chair of the Snohomish County Democratic Party, denies that his organization had anything to do with the complaint that led to the investigation, saying that he had "heard rumors" about the investigation, but that no one in his party "initiated anything," to his knowledge.
Back at SPD, no ETA was given as to when the investigation would wrap up.
Meanwhile, Hope says that he'll be ready should the OPA investigation conclude that he ran afoul of SPD rules. "I would fully expect at the end of the day that the OPA investigation will follow the same logic as the WA State Public Disclosure Commission. If they do not, I will address that issue at that time."
As for what he'll do to "address" it? He says to wait and see.