42nd District legislator ‘owns the mistake’ of using her Olympia office for a political greeting
WHATCOM — State Rep. Luanne Van Werven has been disciplined by the Legislative Ethics Board for a violation of the Washington Ethics in Public Service Act and she has stepped down from the board, on which she served, as well.
Van Werven, who is running for reelection in the 42nd District, says that she notified her legislative colleagues of those actions that happened on Sept. 24 with this statement:
“Recently the Legislative Ethics Board considered a complaint against me and found reasonable cause of a violation. I accept the decision of the Board and own the mistake of using my office to record a greeting for Whatcom County residents in advance of the Presidential caucus.
“I appreciate the accountability that the Legislative Ethics Board provides for us as legislators. I apologize for my inadvertent action and it will not happen again.
“Additionally, as a member of the Legislative Ethics Board I have voluntarily offered my resignation, effective immediately.”
News notice was put out Sept. 25 by the Washington State House Democratic Campaign Committee. A press release characterized Van Werven’s violation as “using taxpayer resources for the benefit of her own political campaign for reelection.”
The Lynden Republican was ordered to pay a $300 fine, with half of the fine suspended if she does not commit another ethics violation in the next five years, according to the Democratic campaign committee.
The board’s decision followed a 14-week investigation into a complaint filed by a Bellingham resident on June 9, 2020, and as a result of the violation the Ethics Board will continue to monitor Van Werven’s conduct until August 2025, the Democratic committee claims.
Van Werven herself was a member of the board, which is made up of a representative from each of the four legislative caucuses. She was representing House Republicans.
The Ethics Board stated that “while members remain free to voice their views on electoral participation, the use of public resources to solicit constituents to register to vote, ... or to advise on how to vote, is not ‘normal or regular’ conduct for a legislative office and would violate RCW 45.52.180.”
Ahead of the presidential primary on March 10, Van Werven filmed campaign video from inside her legislative office on the grounds of the state Capitol building in Olympia.
In so doing, she used taxpayer dollars to promote her political campaign for reelection in violation of the ethics act, the Democratic committee says.