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SEPTEMBER 1, 1997

Local News

Another water commissioner owes money

  by Andrew Walgamott
   WOODINVILLE--The kettle heats back up as another water district commissioner faces state action, this one for failing to disclose election and financial reports. Gail Harrell, Woodinville Water District Board of Commissioners president, who led the charge against a fellow board member accused of misuse of funds and equipment, herself owes $1,000 in fines, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC).
  
   Vicki Rippie, PDC assistant director, says Harrell owes the state $500 for failure to file personal financial reports in 1995 and 1996, and $500 for not filing a post election campaign disclosure report for her 1994 45th District state representative bid. Rippie said the state would go as far as court action to recover the fines if they are not paid.
  
   According to Rippie, personal financial reports are due from elected officials each April 15. She termed them "annual reports with which [Harrell] must be familiar." Harrell has been a water district commissioner since January, 1990. Failure to file financial papers with the state is a $250 fine per year. Campaign disclosure reports are due after election efforts.
  
   Harrell's report was due Dec. 10, 1994. The state attempted to notify her several times via certified mail, but the letters were returned unclaimed. Early last week, Harrell said she had not known about the fines but wanted to sit down and meet with state officials soon.
  
   "I'll go through all my records and bring them down there (to Olympia) and find out what's going on," Harrell said. "Whatever the situation is, I'll rectify it," she said. According to Rippie, Harrell is ultimately responsible for payment of the fines.
  
   Harrell isn't unused to questions over money and public officials. She raised concerns about fellow commissioner Walter Backstrom's use of district funds and equipment last April, eventually requesting a state audit. Finished in August, the audit recommended no further actions against Backstrom after he repaid various expenses.
  
   Still, Backstrom couldn't resist the turn around, and wondered if he should ask the district for an audit of Harrell. "People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones," Backstrom said.