Jesse Wineberry and Roy Ruffino
Jesse Wineberry and Roy Ruffino (Austin Jenkins)

Two men with long­time ties to dis­graced ini­tia­tive pro­mot­er Tim Eyman filed a law­suit in King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court yes­ter­day against pro­po­nents of Ini­tia­tive 1000 (Wash­ing­ton’s Diver­si­ty, Equi­ty, and Inclu­sion Act) alleg­ing breach of con­tract after hav­ing not been paid for their work on the I‑1000 sig­na­ture dri­ve last year.

Enact­ed by the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture on April 28th, 2019, I‑1000 is on hold until vot­ers decide its fate this Novem­ber. It’s on the bal­lot as Ref­er­en­dum 88. A vote to Approve Ref­er­en­dum 88 is a vote to uphold I‑1000 and a vote to Reject Ref­er­en­dum 88 is a vote to repeal I‑1000 and leave the sta­tus quo in place.

The afore­men­tioned men each con­trol com­pa­nies that are inte­gral to the oper­a­tion of Grover Norquist clone Tim Eyman’s ini­tia­tive factory.

Roy Ruffi­no of Lacey is the man behind “Cit­i­zen Solu­tions”, the prime con­trac­tor for Eyman’s sig­na­ture dri­ves, while Brent John­son of Spokane, the man behind Your Choice Pet­tions, LLC is one of Ruffi­no’s subcontractors.

Through his com­pa­ny Cit­i­zen Solu­tions, Roy Ruffi­no was sued by the State of Wash­ing­ton as part of its major cam­paign finance enforce­ment law­suit against Tim Eyman. A default judg­ment was recent­ly approved against Cit­i­zen Solu­tions and the State is now seek­ing a penal­ty of more than $1 mil­lion from the firm and the men who con­trol it (Ruffi­no and William Agazarm).

Eyman, mean­while, con­tin­ues to rack up con­tempt sanc­tions for his vio­la­tion of court-issued dis­cov­ery orders ahead of next sum­mer’s trial.

Sub­con­trac­tor Brent John­son is no stranger to trou­ble, either. Accord­ing to a back­ground check obtained by NPI, John­son has been con­vict­ed of a num­ber of crimes, includ­ing… get this… forgery. That’s right, forgery. A con­vict­ed forg­er is one of Wash­ing­ton’s most pro­lif­ic sig­na­ture gath­er­ing crew chiefs.

What could pos­si­bly go wrong?

In this case, Ruffi­no and John­son got burned by inex­plic­a­bly decid­ing to under­take a project for Jesse Wineber­ry, a well-con­nect­ed for­mer state legislator.

That project was Ini­tia­tive 1000.

As I allud­ed to above, I‑1000 was writ­ten to super­sede Tim Eyman’s I‑200, the state’s decades-old ban on affir­ma­tive action, which was adopt­ed in 1998.

Ruffi­no and John­son not only agreed to run the sig­na­ture dri­ve for I‑1000, they agreed to do it on spec. Mean­ing, instead of insist­ing on being pro­vid­ed cash upfront as a con­di­tion of under­tak­ing the dri­ve, they col­lect­ed sig­na­tures based on the promise of future repay­ment, which is pret­ty much unheard of in the industry.

I‑1000 was writ­ten to explic­it­ly per­mit state agen­cies and insti­tu­tions of high­er learn­ing to con­duct out­reach to dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties and his­tor­i­cal­ly under­rep­re­sent­ed groups, while con­tin­u­ing to pro­hib­it the use of quotas.

Nat­u­ral­ly, Tim Eyman is opposed to I‑1000. That’s what makes Ruffi­no and John­son’s involve­ment so strange. Eyman is Ruffi­no’s prin­ci­pal client and I‑200 was the first mea­sure that Eyman spon­sored that made it to the bal­lot and got past the vot­ers. I‑200 is thus very spe­cial to Eyman.

How­ev­er, Eyman has­n’t uttered a word of con­dem­na­tion against Ruffi­no (at least not that we’re aware of) for what would appear to be a major betrayal.

I‑1000 is fierce­ly opposed by Eyman, talk show host John Carl­son (who helmed the I‑200 cam­paign dur­ing its lat­ter stages), and an arch­con­ser­v­a­tive Asian Amer­i­can group disin­gen­u­ous­ly called “WA Asians For Equality”.

Were it not for Ruffi­no and John­son and their crews, I‑1000 would not have qual­i­fied as an ini­tia­tive to the Leg­is­la­ture ear­li­er this year. Jesse Wineber­ry’s efforts to qual­i­fy a mea­sure to amend I‑200 would have run aground.

Ruffi­no’s lawyer Mark Lamb (who also used to rep­re­sent Eyman) told NPR’s Austin Jenk­ins that Ruffi­no believed Wineber­ry would be good for the mon­ey because three for­mer gov­er­nors (Dan Evans, Gary Locke, and Chris Gre­goire) had endorsed the cam­paign and were serv­ing as its hon­orary co-chairs.

I don’t buy that for a sec­ond. Ruffi­no and John­son are con artists oper­at­ing in a shady, large­ly unreg­u­lat­ed indus­try that runs on cash.

Why on Earth would they agree to do work for a polit­i­cal adver­sary of their pri­ma­ry client who did not pos­sess the mon­ey to pay them?

It’s rather some­thing to wit­ness con men get conned by a con man.

Then again, birds of a feath­er do tend to flock together.

Nine months after Jesse Wineber­ry’s One Equal­i­ty Wash­ing­ton cam­paign turned in sig­na­tures for I‑1000 — an event that fea­tured Ruffi­no — Cit­i­zen Solu­tions and its sub­con­trac­tors have still not been paid in full by Wineber­ry’s operation.

In fact, they’ve bare­ly received any mon­ey from Wineber­ry at all.

Mean­while, Wineber­ry and his group have been spend­ing their lim­it­ed cash on hand on oth­er pri­or­i­ties. Like a tele­vi­sion ad pro­mot­ing I‑1000, which cost sev­er­al thou­sand dol­lars to pro­duce. Or the repeat­ed reim­burse­ment of trav­el expens­es to Wineber­ry — near­ly five thou­sand dol­lars’ worth.

After nine months, with Wineber­ry hav­ing made no appre­cia­ble progress towards retir­ing the debt he owes them, Ruffi­no and John­son have decid­ed to go to court. But they’re not just suing Wineber­ry’s One Equal­i­ty Wash­ing­ton cam­paign. Nope. They’re also going after Wineber­ry’s oth­er I‑1000 com­mit­tee (Approve I‑1000) and the Wash­ing­ton Fair­ness Coali­tion, which Wineber­ry has no involve­ment in.

The Wash­ing­ton Fair­ness Coali­tion is the cam­paign that is com­ing togeth­er in defense of I‑1000 on a pol­i­cy basis, as opposed to defend­ing the cam­paign that qual­i­fied I‑1000 (Wineber­ry’s One Equal­i­ty Wash­ing­ton). The coali­tion has no asso­ci­a­tion with OEW and did not even exist at the time that Ruffi­no agreed to under­take the I‑1000 sig­na­ture dri­ve for Wineber­ry. It’s just sev­er­al weeks old.

Nonethe­less, it is named as a defen­dant in the lawsuit.

Why? Because Ruffi­no and John­son are des­per­ate. They want to be paid per the agree­ment they had with Wineber­ry, but Wineber­ry does­n’t have the mon­ey to pay them, and they know it. So they’re hop­ing to wran­gle mon­ey out of the Wash­ing­ton Fair­ness Coali­tion and its donors instead.

The coali­tion had this to say about the sit­u­a­tion last week, in a state­ment issued on Fri­day, Sep­tem­ber 13th, fol­low­ing its Seat­tle kick­off event:

The Wash­ing­ton Fair­ness Cam­paign believes that indi­vid­u­als who gath­ered sig­na­tures for I‑1000 should be com­pen­sat­ed for their work. The per­son respon­si­ble for this pay­ment is their employ­er, Roy Ruffi­no and his com­pa­ny, Cit­i­zen Solu­tions. Our cam­paign lead­er­ship, co-chairs, or donors were not privy to, or sig­na­to­ries to, any fidu­cia­ry arrange­ments includ­ing wages, pay­ment sched­ule, or deficit spend­ing between Mr. Ruffi­no, the sig­na­ture gath­er­ers he hired, and his client.

We stand aligned with any work­ing per­son who deserves to be paid. We urge Roy Ruffi­no and oth­er respon­si­ble par­ties to make good on com­mit­ments made to these con­tract­ed employ­ees. We will remain focused on approval of this impor­tant law for all work­ing people.

The Wash­ing­ton Fair­ness Coali­tion will, I imag­ine, be fil­ing a motion to be dis­missed as a defen­dant from this law­suit rather promptly.

Ruffi­no is in no posi­tion to make good on his com­mit­ments and like­ly would­n’t be even if Wineber­ry sud­den­ly paid him in full. That’s because, as men­tioned, the State of Wash­ing­ton is seek­ing to exact a major penal­ty from him over his com­plic­i­ty in Tim Eyman’s bla­tant vio­la­tions of our pub­lic dis­clo­sure laws.

Here’s the State’s motion to impose a penal­ty on Cit­i­zen Solu­tions, filed in Thurston Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court last month.

The State is seek­ing $150,000 from Cit­i­zen Solu­tions, $150,000 from Ruffi­no’s part­ner William Agazarm, and $752,891.97 “joint­ly and sev­er­al­ly” from both defen­dants. That’s over $1 mil­lion in all.

State’s motion against Cit­i­zen Solu­tions for default judg­ment penalties

What a tan­gled mess, eh?

Last year, NPI was invit­ed by Jesse Wineber­ry and his asso­ciates to become involved in the effort to qual­i­fy I‑1000. We declined, how­ev­er, owing to our con­cerns about fund­ing and trans­paren­cy — the same con­cerns that prompt­ed oth­er peo­ple Wineber­ry had approached to quit work­ing with him. We did not endorse the cam­paign, gath­er sig­na­tures, or pro­vide resources.

When we found out that Wineber­ry was work­ing with Ruffi­no, we inves­ti­gat­ed and shared our grave con­cerns with oth­er advo­cates for diver­si­ty and inclusion.

At no point did Wineber­ry offer an expla­na­tion for his inde­fen­si­ble deci­sion to do busi­ness with Roy Ruffi­no and Cit­i­zen Solutions.

The trea­sur­er hired by Wineber­ry to han­dle the One Equal­i­ty Com­mit­tee’s books referred our inquiries to Wineber­ry; but Wineber­ry nev­er responded.

After I‑1000 qual­i­fied, we urged the Leg­is­la­ture to adopt the mea­sure, and the House and Sen­ate did so. Now I‑1000 is before vot­ers any­way because it has been sub­ject­ed to a ref­er­en­dum. NPI is urg­ing an “Approved” vote on Ref­er­en­dum 88/Initiative 1000. If you are inter­est­ed in join­ing with us in the effort to uphold Wash­ing­ton’s Diver­si­ty, Equi­ty, and Inclu­sion Act, be sure that your con­tri­bu­tions — whether they be time, tal­ent, or trea­sure — go to the Wash­ing­ton Fair­ness Coali­tion, and not to either of Jesse Wineber­ry’s cam­paign committees.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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