2017 Election

Ex-City Council Candidate Faces Criminal Charges in Voucher Program

City attorney Pete Holmes filed charges against Sheley Secrest on Wednesday.

By Hayat Norimine February 1, 2018

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Sheley Secrest, a former Seattle city council candidate and vice president of the local NAACP chapter, is facing criminal charges after allegations she defrauded the city's experimental democracy voucher program.

Seattle city attorney Pete Holmes filed the charges—false reporting and attempted theft—on Wednesday, Erica Barnett reported first this morning.

Secrest's former campaign manager, Patrick Burke, filed a police report last year alleging she used $560 of what she said was her own money, claiming they were donations from Seattle residents, to qualify for the vouchers program. Secrest denied the allegations to The Seattle Times in August. A Seattle police detective brought the charges to the city attorney's office recommending criminal charges against her in December. 

Last year was the first time Seattle began using democracy vouchers, a campaign finance experiment part of a voter-approved 2015 initiative. Registered voters and green card holders in Seattle were able to donate four vouchers (a total of $100) to candidates of their choice for two at-large city council seats, positions 8 and 9. Secrest was a candidate for Position 8, which is now held by Teresa Mosqueda.

Burke told Seattle Met back in October he thought Secrest grew desperate after King County returned voucher donations three times, unable to validate the signatures. (Burke also took Secrest to a small claims court over unpaid work he did on her campaign.) Other city council candidates without major organizations behind them also said they struggled with validating signatures, including Hisam Goueli and his campaign manager. 

In a statement on Facebook in December, Secrest continued to deny the claim, suggesting she faced the allegations because of her race, and said the investigation "was completed two months ago...and I remain uncharged."

"I was accused by a white male of doing something I did not do," Secrest wrote. She gave a similar response to The Seattle Times in August when it first reported the allegations. 

"It was really hurtful for her to take it in that direction," Burke told Seattle Met in October. "I came aboard (her campaign) because of what she's done as a person. She's done things in Seattle that mattered to me."

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