OLYMPIA — A Thurston County Superior Court judge has found Tim Eyman in contempt for failing to produce financial records in an ongoing probe of alleged politically corrupt acts by the Mukilteo initiative promoter.
Judge James Dixon issued the contempt order Friday and imposed a fine of $250 a day until Eyman turns over documents sought by Attorney General Bob Ferguson in the civil suit accusing Eyman of illegally profiting from political activities in 2012.
Dixon imposed the fine retroactive to Feb. 16 as recommended by a special master assigned to handle discovery matters in the complicated legal fight, according to the Attorney General’s office. The contempt order is expected to remain in effect until the special master, a retired judge, informs Dixon that the contempt is purged.
“Mr. Eyman has resisted our efforts to shine a light on his activities every step of the way,” Ferguson said Monday in response to an email. “Hopefully the contempt sanctions will finally motivate Mr. Eyman and his associates to comply with the court’s order to produce the requested documents, including relevant financial information.”
Eyman’s attorney, Mark Lamb of Bothell, said Monday that he thinks records already provided to the state and updated on March 2 — including tax returns, bank account numbers and routing numbers for bank accounts — will satisfy the demands of the special master.
Eyman declined to comment Monday after a news conference at which he discussed his latest political undertaking: a lawsuit to get both Initiative 940, which rewrites the state’s use of deadly force law, and an amended version passed by lawmakers, onto the November ballot so voters can choose which approach they want.
Lawmakers, in the final days of the session, passed House Bill 3003 amending the initiative and Gov. Jay Inslee signed it. Once that was done, legislators approved I-940, which is an initiative to the Legislature signed by roughly 355,000 people. By legislative design, the changes contained in the House bill will take effect one day after the initiative goes into force.
Eyman’s suit contends the maneuvering violates the state Constitution which gives lawmakers three options for dealing with I-940. They could approve it and thus make it the law. They could reject it, in which case it would go to the ballot. Or they could let it go to the ballot and put an alternative alongside it. There is no fourth option along the lines of what lawmakers did, Eyman said.
“They decided for the people instead of letting the people decide,” Eyman said Monday.
In the meantime, Eyman had racked up $6,000 in fines as of Monday in his fight with Ferguson linked to the 2012 election.
Eyman faces civil charges of secretly moving funds between two initiative campaigns that year and receiving $308,000 in kickbacks from the firm that collected signatures for the measures.
Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed in March 2017, alleges Eyman failed to report that he was shifting money donated for Initiative 1185, a tax-limiting measure, into the campaign for Initiative 517, which sought to reform the initiative and referendum process.
Under state election law, money can be moved from one political committee to another, but it must be disclosed in reports to the commission. And the sources of the money that is getting shifted must be revealed.
The Public Disclosure Commission investigated for three years and took the results to Ferguson in 2015. His office conducted its own probe, then filed the suit. It alleges Eyman committed numerous violations of state campaign finance laws. He argues Eyman should pay $1.8 million in penalties plus return the $308,000 in payments from the signature-gathering firm.
Eyman has denied wrongdoing.
In November, attorneys for Eyman and the Attorney General’s Office sparred in court over the state’s demand for Eyman’s tax returns, bank statements and a record of every cellphone call he had made the previous 13 years.
Dixon denied the request for cellphone records but did appoint a special master to oversee the ongoing discovery process. State attorneys made the request, saying it was needed to compel Eyman to respond to requests for documents.
In the hearing, Lamb questioned why the state needed so many years of records. Dalton explained to the judge that the state is examining the possible diversion of political contributions to Eyman’s personal bank accounts dating back to 2004.
The case is set for a jury trial in November 2018.