News

PDC hearing will determine whether Federal Way judge violated campaign law

From staff reports:

The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) will hold a hearing Oct. 22 regarding allegations that Federal Way Judge Michael Morgan violated a state campaign law.

On Aug. 7, the commission received a complaint that alleges a computer found in Morgan's personal office was used to claim the identity of a clerk in his court, then respond to fellow judicial candidates' election blogs on The Mirror's Web site.

The commission will hear the matter much like a court hearing, said PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson. The commission will determine whether Morgan violated RCW 42.17.130, which "prohibits elected officials, their employees and persons appointed to or employed by a public office or agency from using or authorizing the use of public facilities, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of assisting a candidate's campaign or for the promotion of, or opposition to, any ballot proposition. This prohibition does not apply to activities that are part of the normal and regular conduct of the office or agency."

The commission can assess a penalty of up to $4,200, or refer the case to the attorney general's office if a higher penalty is sought, Anderson said. As a respondent, Morgan can appeal any penalty to the state Supreme Court, Anderson said.

Morgan has denied any involvement with the Internet postings, saying he is a victim of "cyber tricks."

Background

On Aug. 4, court clerk Christine Faucher reported to police and city staff that her identity was fraudulently used to create Internet accounts with the two newspapers. Faucher's name, birthdate (though off by one year) and information associated with her interests and place of employment were used to create the accounts.

According to the timeline of Internet activity from Aug. 3 on Morgan's computer, as provided by the city of Federal Way's IT personnel:

• Morgan was logged in under his name at 8:01 a.m. At 8:04 a.m., Internet browsing began while logged in under an account for temporary employees. A post to candidate Matthew York's online blog was made at 8:11 a.m. Internet browsing under Morgan's name began again at 8:43 a.m.

• At 9:56 a.m., Internet browsing began again under the temporary employee login. At 10:08 a.m., a post was made to candidate Williams Jarvis' site. Internet browsing under Morgan's name began again at 11:26 a.m.

• At 11:42 a.m., Internet browsing began again under the temporary employee login. At 11:44 a.m., the user registered for an account with the Tacoma News Tribune under Christine Faucher's name. The user logged off at 11:44 a.m., just seconds after the registration request. At 11:50 a.m., Internet browsing began under Morgan's name.

• At 7:18 p.m., an Internet page was retrieved while logged in under Morgan's name. The Internet page was the Washington State Legislature's file regarding RCW 42.17.130: "Use of public office or agency facilities in campaigns — Prohibitions — Exceptions."

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