The King County Prosecutor's Office has charged Michael King, the former Senate Democratic Campaign Committee executive director who allegedly embezzled between $250,000 and $300,000 from the organization, with eight counts of theft.
"King concealed his thefts by recording them on the records as reimbursements for polling or personal expenses or as bonuses," today's charging document says. "King made a full confession to police after his thefts were discovered."
According to a statement from the police detective assigned to the case, the executive director of the Party didn't historically have the authority to sign checks until King "asked for and was given direct access to SDCC accounts including check signing capabilities" in February 2012.
The thefts apparently came to light after SDCC treasurer Jason Bennett noticed odd "polling" expenditures that took place after the November 2012 election was over.
In his confession to the police, the charging documents say, King said the money was used to "fund his drinking and gambling problem." In the charges, SPD Detecive Keith Savan notes: "I...discovered many dozens of withdrawals occuring to such entities as Goldie's Casino in Shoreline, the Tualip Casino in Marysville, and the Silver Dollar Casino in SeaTac."
State Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill) was a co-chair of the SDCC during part of King's tenure there, starting in the summer of 2012. Murray told PubliCola two weeks ago when we revisited the story (now that Murray is the frontrunner for mayor) that he was not reponsible for hiring King or supervising him, and that "I didn't know about" King's check-writing authority.
"The person you should be calling is [now U.S. Rep.] Derek Kilmer. Derek Kilmer is the person who supervised him for two years," Murray told us. "Derek Kilmer hired him. We can clearly see the first signs of this happening within the first week he was hired."
This morning, Murray, his former cochair of the SDCC Sen. David Frockt (D-46), and current SDCC chair state Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34), issued a joint statement that reads, in part:
Though the campaign committee had operated without incident, in substantially the same form, for nearly a decade before Mr. King came on board, the financial management system failed. The responsibility for stealing lies with Mr. King who had been a highly regarded Democratic Party consultant. The Senators who moved in and out of the campaign committee historically focused on raising funds, mentoring candidates and being the political face of the campaign, while the Executive Director and Treasurer were responsible for finances and reporting. This is an explanation for what happened and how it happened and the context. However, we acknowledge responsibility for a system of controls that were not sufficient when there was a trusted employee determined to exploit any gaps that, in hindsight, existed.
We are deeply disappointed that this theft that occurred. It did, occur however, and we have responded appropriately. We have made the necessary changes that are required to insure that much stronger controls are in place, operationally and financially. ... We have hired a new Treasurer, and members of the Executive Committee are monitoring and auditing the books on a monthly basis to insure that we are properly accounting for the campaign funds entrusted to us. Additionally, the Executive Director does not have and cannot obtain separate and independent check writing authority. We are monitoring and reviewing the books on a monthly basis and are not passively relying on our treasurers, respected as they are, to insure that we are properly accounting for the campaign funds entrusted to us by our supporters.
Read the charging document here.