Former Lobbyist Wants Out Of Lawsuit

OLYMPIA - Lawyers for former lobbyist Geoffrey Gibbs yesterday urged a Thurston County judge to dismiss Gibbs as a defendant in the state's most sweeping lawsuit involving reporting of wining-and-dining expenses.

Superior Court Judge Tom McPhee took the request under advisement. He gave no indication when he would rule.

A dismissal still would leave Gibbs' old law firm, Ogden, Murphy & Wallace, as a defendant.

The attorney general is suing both Gibbs and Ogden Murphy for what Public Disclosure Commission investigators call failure to properly report more than $100,000 in lobbying expenses from late 1985 to mid-1989.

Until the investigation surfaced last year, Gibbs was one of Olympia's top lobbyists. He represented the Washington State Food Dealers Association, oil companies, airlines, securities dealers and certified public accountants. He says his only remaining client is Alaska Airlines.

The PDC alleges that in 1987 Gibbs chartered a plane to fly four lawmakers and himself to a Portland truck-stop bar but reported only the overnight lodging costs.

The commission says Gibbs took legislators and their spouses on ski vacations and salmon-fishing junkets but did not properly report all expenses.

Gibbs' attorney, Wayne Williams, urged the court to pin all the responsibility on the law firm and to dismiss Gibbs from the suit.

Ogden Murphy, and not Gibbs, was the registered lobbyist and had

ultimate responsibility to file the necessary papers, Williams said. He added Gibbs was its agent but bore no direct, personal responsibility to file.

The state doesn't even require Gibbs to file as a lobbyist, he said.

The judge said commission regulations on lobbyist reporting seem to focus ``on a single entity, the registered lobbyist.''

Assistant Attorney General Kim O'Neal said both the firm and Gibbs must share the blame for the reporting violations. Gibbs' role as an agent of the registered lobbyist does nothing to absolve him from responsibility for proper reports, she said.

Gibbs was designated by the firm to do the lobbying, to keep records and to file reports with the state, she said.

Pat Comfort, representing the law partners, agreed. Gibbs was ``responsible for accurate, timely and full disclosure. Any violations were the acts or omissions of Mr. Gibbs,'' he said.

The judge repeatedly asked O'Neal what authority she was relying on in her arguments that Gibbs should be kept in the suit.

O'Neal urged the court to broadly interpret the regulations and the Public Disclosure Act. The bottom line is the public's right to know who spends, and how much, on trying to influence the legislative process, she said.