The state Public Disclosure Commission has rejected a complaint alleging that the anti-fluoridation group Our Water, Our Choice! exceeded spending limits in its fight against the city of Port Angeles’ fluoridation of the municipal water supply.
Portland, Ore., dentist Kurt Ferre, treasurer of the Portland, Ore.-based, pro-fluoride American Fluoridation Society, filed the protest April 15 alleging that the political action committee exceeded limits allowed under the PDC’s mini-reporting requirements.
Under mini-reporting, a group is not required to file detailed reports of contributions and expenditures if it generates $5,000 or less in contributions, $5,000 or less in expenditures and $500 or less in contributions from any single source.
“There is no reason to believe a material violation of any law under the commission’s jurisdiction has occurred,” Evelyn Fielding Lopez, PDC executive director, said Wednesday in an email to Ferre.
“For this reason, the PDC has closed the matter.”
Our Water, Our Choice! President Eloise Kailin of Sequim said Thursday she felt vindicated by the decision.
“We knew we were right,” Kailin said.
“We bent over backward to try to meet all the rules.”
Ferre had said the group had incurred expenses for billboard advertising, legal fees, website development, yard signs and miscellaneous materials that exceeded the $5,000 limit.
He said it had commingled its activities with the nonprofit Clallam County-based Yes4CleanWater.org in conjunction with the nationwide Fluoride Action Network.
Lopez ruled that several groups including Our Water, Our Choice! (OWOC!) were involved in anti-fluoridation efforts but that OWOC!’s activities did not violate the law.
Protect the Peninsula’s Future
Contrary to Ferre’s assertion, Lopez said the billboard was sponsored by Sequim-based Protect the Peninsula’s Future — for which Kailin is corresponding secretary — before OWOC! considered a ballot measure to change the city’s government in response to continued fluoridation.
Protect the Peninsula’s Future, a nonprofit environmental group, paid about $1,500 to rent the billboard, Kailin said Thursday.
Protect the Peninsula’s Future also pays for the legal services of Gerald Steel, an Olympia attorney who also represents Our Water, Our Choice! and has defended its efforts to change the city’s form of government.
Lopez said OWOC! spent money on legal services and received in-kind contributions of legal services that fell within PDC limits.
Lopez said the PDC also reviewed the activities of Yes4CleanWater.org, finding no evidence it is a political committee affiliated with the OWOC but rather a website clearinghouse for legal and policy information on fluoridation.
The website is sponsored by Clallam County Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, founded by Kailin.
Clallam County Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, Protect the Peninsula’s Future and Kailin have filed unsuccessful Clallam County Superior Court legal actions against city fluoridation.
Disappointed by ruling
Ferre, whose brother owns a home in the Port Angeles area, said he was disappointed by the ruling.
“When you talk about in-kind contributions, in many cases, it requires money even if it’s on a volunteer [basis],” he said.
“To say these different organizations aren’t related, maybe they aren’t financially, but believe me, they are talking to one another.
“I just believe strongly that fluoridation is a strong foundation for a sound oral health policy.
“I’m undefeated in that.”
While proponents of water fluoridation say it helps to protect dental health, opponents of fluoridation blame it for health problems including thyroid maladies, low IQ and cancer, and say it is readily available to those who want it.
Change form of government
Lopez notified Ferre and Our Water, Our Choice! of her decision a week before the Port Angeles City Council will discuss OWOC!’s petition to have residents vote on changing the form of city government.
The city would change back to second-class status, which would lead to a loss of the city’s home-rule charter powers, according to the nonpartisan state Municipal Research and Services Center.
Proponents say it also would lead to new elections for all seven council members, an assertion disputed by City Attorney Bill Bloor.
The petition was prompted by the City Council’s refusal to stop fluoridation despite a city-sponsored, unscientific survey in late 2015 that showed most city water ratepayers who responded opposed the practice.
City Councilman Dan Gase said Thursday that council members at their regular meeting Tuesday will discuss holding the change-of-government election Nov. 8 but would face an Aug. 2 deadline for notifying the Secretary of State’s Office.
Otherwise, the election would be held in November 2017, Gase said, adding that Bloor will give a report on the council’s options at the meeting Tuesday, which begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 321 E. Fifth St.