Vancouver attorney files ethics complaint against Auditor Greg Kimsey

Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey
Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey
Vancouver Attorney D. Angus Lee
Vancouver Attorney D. Angus Lee

Complaint alleges violations of the Code of Ethics, the Appearance of Fairness Doctrine, and Clark County Policy

Ken Vance, editor
Clark County Today

VANCOUVER – A formal complaint was filed Thursday (Dec. 28) with the Clark County Ethics Commission against Auditor Greg Kimsey, alleging violations of the Code of Ethics, the Appearance of Fairness Doctrine, and Clark County Policy. This action follows Kimsey’s handling of a voter registration challenge involving then candidate John Ley in the 2022 election for state representative, 18th Legislative District.

The complaint, submitted by D. Angus Lee, highlights concerns over Kimsey’s alleged behind the scenes involvement in the initiation of the challenge against Ley’s voter registration.  It is claimed that Kimsey invited the filing of a challenge against Ley but failed to disclose this fact during the subsequent hearing on the challenge. According to Angus Lee, such conduct, if proven true, would constitute a breach of ethical standards of impartiality.

Lee’s letter to the ethics commission was clear that it did “not allege any wrongdoing on the part of Greg Cheney or Carolyn Crain.”  According to Lee, “the issue here is Kimsey’s failure to disclose his activity to Ley as required by ethics laws.”  

Enclosed within the complaint are screenshots of conversations purportedly between Auditor Kimsey and Kathy McDonald, a high-ranking Republican party official. These conversations suggest strategies to adjust voter districts, potentially influencing the eligibility of Greg Cheney as a candidate in the same district as Ley. Of particular note is a map of precinct 607 with an unusual cutout, presumably part of the redistricting effort.

Lee believes the complaint underscores the potential influence of Kimsey in redistricting actions and subsequent challenges to voter registration, which are seen as problematic given his position and responsibilities. The hearing on June 28, 2022, where Kimsey presided and directly cross-examined Mr. Ley, without disclosing his prior actions, is a focal point of the complaint.

Lee emphasizes the need for a thorough review by the Clark County Ethics Commission, under the authority of CCEC 2.07.030(1), to ensure transparency and integrity in the electoral process. 

The complaint specifically details alleged violations of several key statutes under the Revised Code of Washington. These include RCW 42.36.060, which mandates that a decision maker must avoid ex partecommunications regarding the subject of a proceeding, and if such communications occur, they must be recorded and publicly disclosed. Furthermore, RCW 42.36.080 requires full disclosure by decision makers to allow for potential challenges to their involvement in a matter.  Additionally, RCW 42.52.020 outlines the conflict of interest guidelines, prohibiting officials from having interests, direct or indirect, that conflict with their official duties. 

This matter is now in the hands of the Clark County Ethics Commission for further investigation. 

In a statement, Lee expressed confidence in the investigative process: “We trust that the Clark County Ethics Commission will uphold its duty to ensure ethical conduct within our governmental institutions. It is imperative that this matter is investigated thoroughly to maintain public trust in our electoral processes. We look to the Commission to demonstrate their commitment to these standards by conducting a comprehensive review of the complaint.”

When reached by Clark County Today Thursday, Kimsey said he had not seen the complaint but that “it’s been described to me.’’

Kimsey said his communications with McDonald on Ley’s voter registration status and Cheney’s eligibility as a legislative candidate were not unusual.

“Any citizen who had contacted me with similar questions that Kathy McDonald had would very likely have received a similar response,’’ Kimsey said.

Kimsey also stated that he had no impact on the redistricting process, including any impact on which district Cheney would be eligible as a candidate.

“I’m sure you are aware, legislative boundaries are determined by the (Washington) State Redistricting Commission,’’ Kimsey said. “County auditors and county councils have no involvement in establishing legislative district boundaries.’’

Kimsey also stated that at the beginning of the review process of Crain’s voter registration complaint against Ley, he offered to recuse himself and Ley declined.

“I held a meeting with Mr. Ley and Carolyn Crain and I told Mr. Ley about the communication that had occurred (with Kathy McDonald) and asked him if he wanted me to recuse myself. Prior to that meeting, I had made arrangements for a county auditor from a county outside of Clark County. Mr. Ley declined to accept my offer to recuse myself from conducting the hearing.’’ 

Kimsey later ruled in favor of Crain’s voter registration challenge.

Kimsey concluded by saying, “I look forward to the Ethics Commission considering this complaint and I look forward to this being dismissed.’’ 

When Clark County Councilor Gary Medvigy was contacted by Clark County Today Thursday, Medvigy agreed that the complaint against Kimsey deserved the attention of the Ethics Commission.

“It needs to be investigated, for sure, otherwise why do we even put that committee together?’’ Medvigy said. “They definitely should look into it. As long as there is an alleged violation, they should look into it. He (Kimsey) should not have been giving her (McDonald) advice on how to get John Ley in trouble.’’

Medvigy, a former judge, agreed with Superior Court Judge David Gregerson’s decision that Ley was an ineligible candidate in the 2022 primary election. But, Medvigy doesn’t agree with what has transpired since that decision.

“That should have been the end of it,’’ Medvigy said. “This is an abuse of prosecutorial discretion by the prosecuting attorney. I don’t know what is going on here. 

“People (candidates) have done that carpetbagger thing throughout the history of the United States,’’ Medvigy added. “I wish John wouldn’t have done it. I don’t know why he did it. He shouldn’t have done it, but that’s where it should have ended.’’

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