Castle Rock Police Chief Bob Heuer will go before the state Public Disclosure Commission on Thursday on charges he violated election laws by appeared in a television commercial opposing privatizing liquor sales.
The chief already has agreed to a small fine to resolve the case.
The state investigator’s proposed settlement — a $250 fine with another $500 suspended — is the same amount Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson was fined last month for appearing in the same commercial. The commercial opposed Initiative 1183 and included several public safety workers.
The violation isn’t that Heuer appeared in the political commercial. The problem is that he wore an official uniform and had a city patrol car in the shot.
State law forbids using taxpayer-purchased items in a political ad. Nelson was found guilty of the same violation. Others in the commercial wore union shirts and posed in front of rented vehicles.
Heuer could be fined up to $4,200, but the commission is likely to accept the stipulated fine, as it did with Nelson last month.
The complaints against Nelson and Heuer were filed by former cop Phil Barberg of Everett, Wash., who saw the commercials on Seattle TV stations. Barberg supported the initiative, but said his complaint was about following the rules, not Nelson’s and Heuer’s opposition to the measure.
Heuer told The Daily News last month that he didn’t realize he’d violated any law and thought getting permission from the mayor was all that was required. A letter to the state drafted by the city’s attorney states that the uniform was old and considered personal property at that point and that Heuer drove his personal car to the commercial filming on his day off. The letter also states the city patrol car in the background was parked there and “not requested for the commercial.”
The PDC investigator, though, writes that Heuer instructed one of his officers to wash the car, bring it specifically to the filming location and turn on the overhead lights. The investigative report also states another police department car was brought to the site so the officer could continue his paperwork in that car while the first car was used in the commercial shot.
I-1183, which allows hard alcohol to be sold in grocery stores, passed with 59 percent of the statewide vote in November. In Cowlitz County, the measure only got 48 percent approval.