March 10, 2011
Accusations of fundraising improprieties by Colorado Springs City Council candidates continue to fly, with three separate complaints filed this week.
One was against four candidates by a supporter of the “Reform Team” organized by at-large candidate Douglas Bruce. One was filed by Bruce against another candidate.
And another was filed by a state watchdog organization against Bruce and his allies.
There are 16 candidates seeking five at-large council seats in April’s election. Click here for The Gazette's online voter guide.
Colorado Springs resident Roger McCarville filed a complaint with the city clerk, who forwarded it to the Secretary of State’s Office, about fundraising by incumbent Jan Martin, Merv Bennett, Thomas “Tony” Exum Sr. and Tim Leigh.
The allegations against Bennett stem from his failure to report in his Feb. 7 filing the dates that he received $10,475 in contributions. In the date column of the form, Bennett repeated the amount of the contribution rather than the date received. Bennett was not available for comment Thursday.
Exum, Leigh and Martin are accused of failing to file the proper forms and filing late.
Candidates must fill out a report the first day of each month, starting six months before the election.
Martin’s first statement in this election cycle was filed Feb. 7. Martin “is carrying over $6,841, unreported for the past 21 months, presumably her campaign fund balance” from her first campaign, the complaint states.
Martin could not be reached Thursday.
Exum’s Feb. 7 report states that it covers contributions and expenditures from Jan. 1.
But he lists a $2,000 contribution from himself Dec. 23 and expenditures in November and December. Exum said Thursday it was the result of misunderstanding of the reporting date guidelines by a first-time candidate.
“I didn’t do anything deliberately. I wasn’t trying to be deceptive. I was just following the guidelines as I understood them,” Exum said.
Leigh, who initially declared candidacy for mayor and then dropped out, failed to transfer his mayoral contributions to his council race and also filed late. But on Tuesday and Wednesday, after being contacted by The Gazette and the City Clerk’s Office, his campaign filed forms to try to fix his errors.
A spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office said the complaints will be forwarded to the Office of Administrative Courts.
A similar complaint against the four was filed last month by Colorado Springs resident Charles Prignano. A hearing in that case is set for 9:30 a.m. today in the Office of Administrative Courts’ Colorado Springs office.
Also this week, Bruce filed a complaint with the Secretary of State about District 2 candidate Michael Terry, one of four seeking to represent northeast Colorado Springs.
Bruce claimed Terry did not file the Feb. 7 report, and that the report he filed Feb. 25 contained errors.
Terry could not be reached Thursday. The Secretary of State spokesman said that complaint will be forwarded to an administrative court.
Meanwhile, Bruce and the Reform Team are the subject of a complaint filed Thursday by the group Colorado Ethics Watch. The complaint, filed with City Council, asks the council to have the city attorney investigate the candidates’ use of a joint committee for reporting donations and expenditures.
The group says the Reform Team’s committee is actually a political action committee, which would mean none of them has registered a candidate committee. Since their reports don’t show up under the candidates section on the city’s website, the complaint says, it appears to voters that they aren’t raising or spending any money.
“Because the Reform Team PAC reports all contributions and expenditures, voters are unaware of amounts being contributed and spent to support specific candidates.
Moreover, voters have no reason to search for candidate contributions and expenditures in the part of the city’s website labeled “Issue Committees” to find this information,” states group director Luis Toro’s letter.
Bruce said the group is not a PAC, but a committee to support and oppose candidates.
“The whole purpose of this (complaint) is liberals up in Denver who obviously don’t like me and I don’t like them, they know that they can score some points by smearing somebody by making an accusation,” Bruce said.
“The merits of our request speak for themselves. He’s a candidate who’s running a political committee, and we don’t think that’s allowed,” Toro responded.