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Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich fined for campaign, lobbying law violations

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Spokane County Sheriff YouTube screenshot
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich criticized county commission candidate Amber Waldref in a video posted to his official YouTube account earlier this year.

The agency that enforces Washington’s campaign finance laws has found Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich participated in unlawful campaigning and lobbying.

The violations stem from a video posted to the sheriff’s office YouTube channel in which Knezovich criticized a county commission candidate and recently passed police reform laws.

In the video, he criticized local black activists, Democratic legislators and Spokane City Council members.

He also spoke out against Spokane County Commission candidate Amber Waldref, a Democrat and former Spokane City Council member.

“She was a part of these years of a broken criminal justice system, and now she wants to run for Spokane County commissioner,” he said in the video.

He said her support of police reform hurt crime victims. He also criticized sitting state legislators – saying they needed to address recent police reform laws that restricted car chases.

One complaint was filed by Paul Dillon, a local progressive activist and the vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho. The second violation was filed by Washington Public Disclosure Commission staff after watching the video.

In a hearing yesterday, FDC Chairman Fred Jarrett says those comments violated the state’s campaign finance laws.

“While I agree that the YouTube videos are normal, and regular part of his agencies business,” he said. “The content is not, the content is neither legal, nor regular.”

In written responses to the PDC, prior to the hearing, Knezovich argued his comments were not misusing public resources, saying he never mentioned Waldref’s Republican opponent and was responding to a post she wrote on social media that was critical of county spending.

He argued the lobbying complaint also was lawful, because he should be able to talk to his constituents about public safety issues.

Jarrett fined the sheriff $300. Knezovich can reduce the fine to $200 if he signs a statement stating he understands the violations.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.