Lynnwood publisher files new campaign finance complaint against Binda

Mario Lotmore of the Lynnwood Times says the city council winner wasn’t transparent enough.

Mario Lotmore

Mario Lotmore

LYNNWOOD — A third campaign finance complaint has been filed against a 21-year-old candidate who won a seat on the Lynnwood City Council this month.

The new case against Joshua Binda comes from Lynnwood Times publisher and owner Mario Lotmore, who ran as a Republican for state Senate in 2018. Lotmore wrote an article published Nov. 1, raising questions about whether Binda violated campaign finance laws.

In an interview Wednesday, the progressive candidate called it a “smear campaign.”

The first two state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) complaints, filed by other people, alleged misuse of funds. They came after Binda made changes to filings in the days leading up to last week’s election, showing thousands of dollars spent on plane tickets, dental work, car towing, rent and tickets to events, among other things.

Binda acknowledged mistakes and said he personally reimbursed the campaign.

The Lynnwood City Council will discuss potential litigation and ethics concerns related to Binda’s campaign finances in an executive session next week. Lynnwood officials have been in talks with the city attorney, Councilmember Shannon Sessions said at a Monday council meeting.

Now, in a story and a PDC complaint of his own, Lotmore accuses Binda of not allowing him to inspect finances in a timely or thorough fashion before the election. Under state law, campaign books must be open to public analysis during the 10 business days prior to an election. The finances must be available within 48 hours of a request for inspection.

Lotmore wrote he made the request at 2:47 p.m. on Oct. 30. The original inspection meeting at a Lynnwood coffee shop was scheduled for 1 p.m. Nov. 1, within 48 hours. Binda rescheduled for 4 p.m. that day, making it over 49 hours since the request, according to Lotmore’s complaint.

State regulations also say the books should reflect all contributions and purchases. Lotmore wrote the records he saw did not include all appropriate documents. He reported Binda’s campaign provided no bank statements, only a four-page transaction history that did not include all expenditures or the underlying receipts and invoices.

Lynnwood County Council candidate Joshua Binda. (Josh Binda campaign)

Lynnwood County Council candidate Joshua Binda. (Josh Binda campaign)

Binda’s campaign consultant, Riall Johnson, said that’s not true. They let Lotmore look through at least 10 pages of bank statements and transactions, Johnson said.

Given his position as owner and a writer at a news outlet reporting on Binda’s campaign, Lotmore runs the risk of a conflict of interest, said George Erb, secretary of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, in an email.

“By filing a complaint against a Lynnwood City Council member, Lotmore the publisher runs the risk of aligning — or even appearing to align — his news site with partisans,” Erb wrote. “Such an act would be contrary to the values of professional journalists, in particular the value of independent reporting.”

Erb, a journalism instructor at Western Washington University, added it’s “hard to see how the interests of either the newsroom or the business are well served” by Lotmore’s move.

Mike Fancher, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, wrote in an email he didn’t have a problem with Lotmore filing his complaint since it was central to his journalistic efforts. He said there are ethical challenges in this case and that the solution is transparency.

“At a minimum, Mario Lotmore’s biography on the newspaper’s website should include his candidacy and volunteering for the Republican Party,” wrote Fancher, the former executive editor of The Seattle Times.

But Fancher noted Lotmore’s work was vital to bringing Binda’s campaign finance issues to light.

The Lynnwood Times publisher did not respond to requests for comment.

Journalists sometimes file Public Disclosure Commission complaints when elected officials and organizations get in the way of their reporting. For example, Eli Sanders, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter for The Stranger newspaper in Seattle, has filed complaints against Facebook and Google over their political advertising in Washington. His work has led to lawsuits filed by the state attorney general’s office and changes to company advertising policies.

As of Tuesday, Binda’s lead in the City Council race appeared insurmountable. He had almost 53% of the vote. He said he wants to go to City Hall with a “clean slate,” and he is excited “to be a strong voice for the community and represent them in the best way I can.”

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

Julie Timm
Sound Transit’s $375K payout to ex-CEO didn’t buy help

Board members said Julie Timm would give professional advice to them or a future CEO after leaving, but she hasn’t been called upon.

FILE -- An engine on a Boeing 767 jet aircraft, at a Boeing facility in Everett, Wash., March 7, 2012. The Boeing 737 engine that failed on Southwest Flight 1380 is not the only one that has caught the eye of regulators: Engines on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner and 767 have also failed, prompting questions about their design and inspection procedures. (Stuart Isett/The New York Times)
Boeing 767, built in Everett, gets 5-year lifeline from Congress

Boeing would have been forced to end production of the 767 Freighter in 2027 due to new emissions rules if not for the extension.

Snohomish County Jail. (Herald file)
Inmate, 51, dies at Snohomish County Jail

Around 3 p.m., corrections staff called 911 about an inmate, who became unresponsive as firefighters arrived. He died at the scene.

With the Olympic mountains in the background, Boeing's 777x lifts off from Paine Field on its first flight, to Boeing Field in Seattle, on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020 in Everett, Wash. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
1 dead, dozens injured after turbulence on Boeing plane

A Singapore Airlines flight from London was diverted to Bangkok, where more than 70 people were being treated for injuries.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Idaho man identified in fatal trooper shooting on I-5 near Everett

The deceased man was Marvin Arellano, 31, of Nampa, Idaho, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office.

State Sen. Mark Mullet, left, and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, are both running as Democrats for governor in 2024. (Photos provided)
Did Bob Ferguson go too far responding to fellow Fergusons?

Ferguson wanted the secretary of state to redo the ballot. Mark Mullet, a Democratic rival, says such a move would’ve broken the law.

Photo by Gina Shields of GM Photography
Whidbey Island to salute the fallen for Memorial Day

All are invited to honor those who have fallen at three events on Whidbey Island.

Boeing firefighters and supporters hold an informational picket at Airport Road and Kasch Park Road on Monday, April 29, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Boeing union firefighters to vote on new contract proposal

The company made the offer after “a productive session” of bargaining and reported the amended contract includes an “improved wage growth schedule.”

Catholic Community Services NW Director of Housing Services and Everett Family Center Director Rita Jo Case, right, speaks to a man who asked to remain anonymous, left, during a point-in-time count of people facing homelessness in Everett, Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Homelessness down nearly 10% in Snohomish County, annual count shows

The county identified 1,161 people without permanent housing, down from 1,285 last year. But lack of resources is still a problem, advocates said.

Snohomish County Deputy Prosecutor Craig Matheson on Wednesday, May 15, 2024 in Everett, Washington. Matheson retires this month after 35 years in the prosecutor's office. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
For decades, he prosecuted Snohomish County’s most high-stakes cases

“When you think of a confident prosecutor, you see a picture of Craig (Matheson) in the dictionary.” Or in the thesaurus, flip to “prepared.”

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.