Council candidate accused of campaign finance violations The Chandler Arizonan

Council candidate accused of campaign finance violations

Council candidate accused of campaign finance violations
City News
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By Kevin Reagan
Arizonan Staff Writer

As the days leading up to Election Day wind down, some of Chandler’s political candidates have found themselves caught up in complaints of improper campaign donations and vandalism.

The Chandler City Clerk’s Office is currently reviewing allegations made against City Council candidate Christine Ellis, accusing her of filing “shabby” campaign finance documents in the last couple months.

The Clerk’s Office has begun reviewing reports filed by Ellis that appear to show her accepting donations from private companies – a violation of the state’s campaign finance laws.

According to a report Ellis filed earlier this month, the candidate reported receiving $1,000 from Good Samaritan Home Care, $1,000 from Options for Senior Living, and $300 from Integrity Matters.

In another report she filed in April, Ellis disclosed receiving $500 from Pastalino Manor, an assisted-living facility.

Based on how Ellis filed the reports, it’s unclear whether these donations came from the business or someone affiliated with the company.

In the section where Ellis should have listed the donor’s name, she instead listed the name of the company.

If the money came directly from a private company and not a donor’s personal account, then the donor could be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor offense. Arizona law allows a candidate to correct any possible filing mistakes within 20 days of being notified of a violation.

Ellis said she’s been in contact with the Clerk’s Office and is already in the process of remedying any possible errors made in her reports.

“We’re going back and we’re going to fix it,” the candidate said.

The Clerk’s Office initiated their review of Ellis’s reports after a complaint was filed on July 21 by Chandler resident James Jurnak.

In addition to the allegations of improper donations, Jurnak faulted Ellis for leaving out the last names and addresses of some donors. That omission, he said, prevents the public from knowing who is financially supporting the candidate’s campaign.

“It is a disservice to, as well as deliberately misleading of, the voters in Chandler when a candidate who, if elected, would be charged with overseeing the hundreds of millions of dollars in the Chandler city budget, completes these relatively-straightforward forms as these finance reports in such a shabby manner,” Jurnak wrote in his complaint.

Ellis said many of her contributions are transmitted online and donors sometimes don’t provide all their personal information when filling out the virtual form. She said she intends to go back and obtain the full identity of these donors.

Ellis, whose background includes working in the healthcare industry, is a political newcomer and her council bid is her first run for any public office in Chandler.

She said she knows it is improper to accept campaign donations from corporations and had been careful about receiving money from private entities.

“It’s not like we weren’t paying attention,” she added. “We were paying attention.”

A couple of the questionable donors mentioned in Jurnak’s complaints did not present themselves as a company, Ellis said, because they appeared to be a limited liability partnership.

It wasn’t until her staff recently checked the Arizona Corporation Commission’s public records that, Ellis said, she realized these donors were registered as private companies.

If it turns out these contributions were improper, Ellis said she will quickly return the donations or do whatever is recommended by the City Clerk’s Office.

Ellis was not the only council candidate listed in Jurnak’s complaint. Rick Heumann and Councilman Mark Stewart were briefly mentioned for allegedly committing minor discrepancies in their finance records.

Chandler City Clerk Dana DeLong said the investigation into Jurnak’s complaint is ongoing.

If a violation has been detected and Ellis chooses not to fix it, then DeLong can forward the matter to City Attorney Kelly Schwab, who can exercise any necessary legal enforcement.

As the city’s early voters begin mailing in their ballots for next month’s primary election, another local candidate has filed a complaint with law enforcement alleging his campaign signs have been intentionally destroyed by an unknown vandal.

Councilman Sam Huang, who is running for the Republican nomination in Arizona’s 9th Congressional District race, claims a number of his campaign signs in Chandler have been vandalized over the last couple weeks.

Huang’s face and name have been visibly blacked out with spray paint on signs stationed along Alma School Road and Chandler Boulevard.

Signs belonging to other candidates posted near Huang’s were not defaced, leading the candidate to believe he’s being targeted.

Huang said he’s not quite sure why anyone would single him out, but he’s notably the only candidate of Asian descent running in the congressional race.

Huang is in a three-way Republican primary with the winner going up in November against incumbent Democratic Congressman Greg Stanton in a district that encompasses most of northern Chandler.

Huang said he encountered similar incidents of vandalism when he ran for the Chandler City Council in 2016. He informed the local authorities of his damaged campaign signs and no suspects were ever apprehended, Huang said.

Another of Huang’s signs was recently burned by a drunken man in Tempe on July 17. A 32-year-old man was later apprehended by authorities and charged with arson.

A Tempe Police spokesperson said the suspect was heavily under the influence of alcohol during the incident and had no political motivation for burning Huang’s sign.

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