Sheley Secrest
Sheley Secrest Secrest Campaign

City Attorney Pete Holmes on Wednesday filed charges against former city council candidate Sheley Secrest for allegedly defrauding Seattle’s new public campaign financing program.

Secrest faces counts of false reporting and attempted theft, according to charging documents filed in Seattle Municipal Court, which were first reported by independent journalist Erica Barnett.

Secrest’s former campaign manager, Patrick Burke, in August accused Secrest of illegally donating her own money to qualify for up to $150,000 in the Democracy Voucher program, a first-in-the-nation system implemented last year. Candidates who want to participate in the Democracy Voucher program must first collect 400 individual contributions between $10 and $250.

According to a police report, Burke told Seattle’s Ethics and Election Commission that Secrest asked him to gather signatures at the June 23 Trans Pride Festival. She then allegedly donated $560 of her own cash to her campaign and wrote “$10” next to each signature Burke had gathered, varying her handwriting as if to avoid suspicion.

Before collecting signatures at the festival, Secrest allegedly said to Burke, "You know what we should do today? Don't worry about the donations today. Just get the signatures."

Burke said he had previously seen Secrest use $100 of her own money to bring her closer to the qualifying threshold for Democracy Vouchers.

Secrest did not return phone calls from The Stranger, though she previously denied committing any ethics violations to the Seattle Times, which broke the allegations against Secrest.

In December, Secrest insinuated on Facebook that the accusations are racially motivated, writing, "I was accused by a white male of doing something I did not do. historically, that has never played out well for black folk like me."

Jennifer Miller, an attorney representing Secrest said, "She was cooperative in this investigation. We look forward to the opportunity to defend against the allegation. While the idea behind Seattle’s first-in-the-nation taxpayer funded Democracy Voucher program is a good one, there are a lot of issues with the way the program exists and there needs to be reform of the program.”

Miller declined to comment when asked to elaborate on specific issues related to the Democracy Voucher program.

Secrest, an attorney and local NAACP leader, last year ran for the city-wide City Council Position 8 seat. She finished fourth out of eight candidates. Labor leader Teresa Mosqueda eventually won the election in November.

The Washington State Bar Association suspended Secrest for 60 days in 2012 for failing to communicate with a client.