SHELTON — Mayor Gary Cronce used his City of Shelton computer and email address to solicit campaign funds for himself and Commissioner Kathy McDowell in 2015, a violation of the state Public Disclosure law.
PDC law states that no city facilities, directly or indirectly, can be used to campaign for any city elected position or issue.
Contacted Thursday, Cronce declined to comment.
Open records were acquired from the city by a proponent of Propostion 1, Jason “DangerCup” Coots.
If passed by voters in Tuesday’s election, Proposition 1 would allow the three-member city commission and manager, the last such form of city government in the state, to expand to a seven-member city council with a city manager.
Coots explained why he filed the open records request for all city commissioners’ emails sent to and from their city email addresses from Jan. 1, 2015 to present.
“It was because I was upset at the vote to not allow the people of Shelton to vote on the issue of the seven-person council, and I was upset about the mayor’s blatant disregard for the public disclosure rules,” Coots said.
Coots describes himself as a “concerned citizen” who petitioned for Proposition 1 after Cronce and McDowell voted against calling the election until petition signatures were received. Commissioner Tracy Moore supported calling the election so Shelton voters could decide their form of government.
Coots said the new emails he found show a history of PDC violations by Cronce, who is already under PDC review for making a statement against Proposition 1 during a city commissioners meeting, an alleged violation of PDC regulations.
Supporters, including former city Commissioner Mike Olsen, later acquired enough petition signatures from registered voters to call the election.
Coots, a native of Shelton and a lineman for a U.S. Department of Defense contractor, made the request records request in early October. He forwarded a sampling of the released email records to iFIBER One News this week.
One of the documents Coots forwarded reveals a conversation between Cronce and representatives of Hall Equities Group, the developers of the Shelton Hills commercial project proposed west of U.S. Highway 101 in Shelton.
“Brandon I really need $500 soon for my mayor’s race. Call me,” Cronce wrote via city government email to Hall Equities employee Brandon Farrell on Sept. 9, 2015.
The company later wrote back, saying the campaign donation was forthcoming, released records show.
A Sept. 2, 2015 city email Cronce sent to Hall Equities’ Alisa MacCormac states: “The limit of any campaign donations is $500. I would like that if possible. Kathy McDowell I’m sure would like one also. We just got endorsed by the Oly Master Builders.”
PDC spokeswoman Kim Bradford cited state law that confirmed Cronce appears to be in violation.
The law prohibits elected officials from using public facilities to assist a campaign,” she said.
“Our commission's interpretation of that statute says ‘agency computers, email systems, telephones, and other information technology systems shall not be used to aid a campaign for or against a candidate or ballot measure,’" Bradford said.