PDC: Mayor did not violate state law with QAnon comments

Public Disclosure Commission finds Sequim mayor William Armacost did not violate a state law

Staff with the Public Disclosure Commission found that Sequim mayor William Armacost did not violate a state law when he talked about QAnon on a radio broadcast in late August.

A complaint filed by Sequim resident Karen Hogan on Sept. 6 asserted that Armacost may have violated RCW 42.17A.555 for “misuse of public facilities in support or opposition of a candidate or ballot proposition.”

On Sept. 15, PDC officials said that Armacost was not in violation of that state law.

“The discussion did not support or oppose any candidate in Washington State or any federal candidate, nor any Washington State ballot proposition or political action committee in the State of Washington,” state PDC compliance coordinator Tabitha Townsend wrote in a review of the complaint.

“However, the discussion did involve Mayor Armacost offering personal opinions on issues that did not appear to have any nexus to City of Sequim official business.

“Based on these findings, staff has determined that in this instance, there is no evidence supporting the finding of a violation of RCW 42.17A.555.”

The RCW notes that “no public facilities can be used by or authorized to be used by any state or local public employee, elected or appointed official, directly or indirectly, to either support or oppose any candidate or ballot proposition.”

During an Aug. 27 “Coffee With the Mayor” program on KSQM 91.5 FM, Armacost spoke of his support of QAnon and directed listeners to a video on the conspiracy theory that ends in promoting President Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, who is seeking a second term.

On Sept. 9, Armacost and Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush released a joint statement regarding the mayor’s comments about QAnon and his recent trip to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Armacost said it was “inappropriate” to speak about his support of QAnon during a radio broadcast in late August, given that he was representing the City of Sequim.

Bush said the intent of the “Coffee” meetings — previously held in person but moved to the airwaves in May because of the COVID-19 pandemic — is to discuss issues specific to the City of Sequim. “Any responses to questions reflecting the personal opinion of the mayor do not reflect policy positions of the Sequim City Council or the organization,” Bush said in the statement.

Armacost said in the Sept. 9 press release: “To date, as mayor I have kept my personal life separate from my professional life and, as a result, I will not comment as mayor on my personal social media presence.

“While I believe that people should fight for truth and freedom, it was inappropriate to respond to this question as mayor during a program designed to talk about City of Sequim issues.”