Lynnwood City Councilmember Josh Binda was found in violation of multiple RCW codes during a Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) meeting Thursday afternoon and will have to pay a $500 fine for those violations.
During the meeting, the commission determined that Binda violated RCW codes 42.17A.235, .240 and .445 by using roughly $3,000 of his campaign funds for personal use as well as failing to timely and accurately report those expenditures on C-4 reports.
Three complaints were made against Binda’s spending actions between the dates of Oct. 29 and Nov. 2, 2021, which caused the PDC to launch an investigation against him Jan. 20, 2022.
According to PDC Compliance Officer Kurt Young – the only witness in the investigation – investigators had a tough time getting in touch with Binda and eventually had to get the Attorney General’s office involved after numerous phone calls, letters and emails were ignored.
“There were some challenges in getting timely responses from Mr. Binda,” Young said. “The main form of communication was email. He finally did respond after several requests had been made.”
Because of Binda’s untimely responses to the PDC’s continued requests for contact, the investigation took the commission much longer than anticipated.
The complaints alleged that Binda spent roughly $3,000 of his campaign funds on items such as haircuts, jewelry, Versace clothing, airfare, dental work, towing expenses and event tickets – none of which were seen as campaign related.
On May 20, 2022, investigators finally heard back from Binda after he received the Attorney General’s request for information. Binda claimed that the original C-4 reports with the $2,913.09 of purchases in question had been filed by a campaign volunteer who “had incorrectly entered and filed the report.” Binda stated that the original report had since been amended and that he planned to personally reimburse the campaign fund for all the expenses that were wrongfully charged to it.
While many of the expenses in question were found to be non-campaign related, some of the purchases in question were deemed appropriate.
Binda said that some of the clothing purchases were for suits and other professional clothing to wear to campaign events and meetings. He also explained that the towing charges were to help a volunteer whose vehicle had been towed away while they were helping during a campaign event. Other purchases such as a laptop and furniture were also found to be campaign-related.
Binda acknowledged the other unsubstantiated personal charges and the PDC ordered him to reimburse a total of $2,913.09 to his campaign fund: These included $1,563.58 for Versace; $326.90 for dental charges; $88 for a necklace; $163 for a haircut; $91.25 for unspecified tickets; $260.60 for airfare; $65 for a haircut; and a $184.16 charge to Vivid Seats.
The findings also showed that Binda filed his C-4 reports over 280 days late. While this information was not alleged in the three initial complaints, PDC investigators discovered this error during their investigation of the misused funds.
Binda was required to file a Post-General Election C-4 report no later than Dec. 10, 2021, covering the period of Oct. 26-Nov. 30, 2021. However, that C-4 report was not filed until Sept. 16, 2022.
While at the beginning of the investigation Binda claimed the allegations against his inappropriate campaign spending were false, he later acknowledged that “there were some mistakes made with filing some of the C-4 reports” and he was working closely with the PDC to resolve those issues.
During Thursday’s meeting, Binda said that ignorance was the main cause of the misinformation filed in his campaign’s C-4 reports.
“I have never done this before as it was my first campaign,” he said. “This entire process – campaigning and working with the PDC – is completely new to me.”
Having just turned 21 when he began his campaign, Binda stated that he and his volunteer staff were too young to know enough to avoid issues such as this. However, he said he hopes that this situation will guide him and help him steer clear of similar trouble in future situations.
“I’m hoping that now that I’m more aware of some things, that this won’t be an issue going forward,” he said.
When asked why it took him over 280 days to properly file the C-4 reports, Binda said the task merely “slipped his mind.” The councilmember said that along with a full-time job and council duties, he had some family issues at the time, and he simply forgot about his other responsibilities until the PDC investigation alerted him of his tardiness.
Assistant Attorney General Susie Giles-Klein, who represented the PDC staff during the meeting, said Binda’s actions added “aggravated problems” to the overall political environment in Lynnwood. His spending actions could increase the public’s distrust of politicians’ spending in the future, hindering them from being willing to donate to campaigns, Giles-Klein said.
Because of this, the PDC recommended a $2,000 fine for Binda’s violations, with $1,000 of the fine being suspended following the timely payment of the other half as well as no further violations for the next four years. The recommended suspension of half of the fine was suggested since this is Binda’s first offense and that he was very young when he ran for office and “lacked a sophisticated campaign.”
However, the PDC commended Binda for being brave enough to run for office with such little political experience.
“Seeing as I was not much older than you when I first ran,” Commission Chair Fred Jarrett joked, “it is a very steep learning curve, so you have a lot of sympathy from me for that.”
Commission Member William Downing then moved to fine Binda $1,000, with $500 of the fine suspended following the timely payment of the other half as well as no further RCW violations in the next four years.
The motion passed unanimously.
After the motion’s approval, Binda thanked the commissioners for being so understanding of his position and for their willingness to work with him to resolve the issues and help him grow from the incident.
–By Lauren Reichenbach
His political career is – and should be – over before it started. What a selfish, self serving, manipulative local govt leader. Everything his candidate promised not to be.
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