Fake Letter From Washington Governor Posted on County Doors
By Jake Thomas
On Thursday morning, Gary Berreth stepped outside of his house in the Green Meadows neighborhood and found an unexpected letter attached to his front door.
The letter featured the Washington state seal and claimed to be from the Office of the Governor. It warned of "an adjustment in property taxes" due to the shutdown of an oil terminal and an agreement with BNSF to prohibit the shipping of oil, lumber and coal by rail through Vancouver.
At the end of the letter was a carefully scrawled signature: "Jay Inslee," Washington's Democratic governor. CC'd on the letter were Clark County Assessor Peter Van Nortwick and Treasurer Doug Lasher.
"I instantly knew that there is no way the government does business like this," said Berreth, who said that he saw the same letter attached to other doors throughout his neighborhood.
Berreth was correct in assuming the letter was a hoax. In an era of growing concerns of fake news spreading online, someone (or a group of people) has taken up a more old-fashioned approach to spreading misinformation.
Simon Vila, spokesman for Inslee, confirmed that neither the governor nor his staff were out in Green Meadows posting notes to residents' doors.
"This is definitely not from our office," he said.
Vila said that the governor's office suspects that whoever is behind the fake notes is also behind a series of strange letters directed to supporters of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington. These letters were typically signed by "Titania," or another character from A Midsummer Night's Dream. The letters were also accompanied by apples lobbed at the houses of their targets. Vila pointed out that the fonts of both letters are similar.
When contacted about Berreth finding the letter on his door, Lasher first responded with an email: "Did he see it on Fox News?"
In a phone interview, Lasher, a Democrat, said that the letter's claim that the governor has authorized an adjustment to property taxes is false. The governor cannot unilaterally alter property taxes. Changes to property taxes need to be signed off by the Legislature, which is currently out of session.
"If they knew the law they would know that's incorrect," said Lasher.
The letter's reference to "shutting down the oil terminal" is a likely reference to Inslee's decision earlier this year to reject a proposed crude-by-rail terminal at the Port of Vancouver.
The letter's claim that BNSF, which operates a large network of railways, has entered an agreement to end the shipment of oil, lumber and coal by rail through Vancouver is also highly questionable.
Courtney Wallace, director of public affairs for BNSF, said in an email that as "a common carrier, we are obligated by federal law to move all regulated goods."
"I'm just surprised someone took the time to write something like this up," said Van Nortwick, a Republican. He said he's not sure how widespread the letter has been distributed or where it's coming from. But he did take to Facebook to debunk the letter.
However, he said that the otherwise fake letter got one thing correct.
"It's very rare that someone gets my name spelled right," he said/
(c)2018 The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.)