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Two conflicting stories on whether Judge Morgan admitted campaign violations

Two different accounts have surfaced over whether an embattled Federal Way judge admitted to campaign violations.

A hearing by the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) regarding allegations that Federal Way Judge Michael Morgan violated a state campaign law has been moved from Oct. 22 to Dec. 3, a PDC spokesman said.

On Oct. 17, The Mirror posted online a file found on the PDC’s Web site that indicated Morgan admitted to the campaign violations; that file was “never intended to be posted” and was inaccurate, said Doug Ellis, assistant director at PDC. The PDC removed the file from public view, and The Mirror removed the file from its Web site. When first asked about the file, Ellis said no stipulated agreement had been signed.

However, Ellis said on Oct. 22, "There was an agreement that was reached." Ellis said Morgan came to an agreement with the PDC: In lieu of a hearing, Morgan would admit he violated RCW 42.17.130 and pay a penalty. "We were all set to go forward" when Morgan withdrew his stipulation, Ellis said. "He signed everything."

In an e-mail to The Mirror, Morgan's attorney Brad Meryhew denied all allegations against his client.

"I'm not sure who at the PDC is relaying the discussions which have taken place with the Attorney General's office, but we have not dealt directly with anyone at the PDC," Meryhew wrote. "Certainly no such stipulation regarding the allegations on August 3, 2009, was ever made and withdrawn."

Background

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.”

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