Post-election paperwork - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Post-election paperwork

Coeur d'Alene officials looking into possible campaign violations

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Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 9:16 am, Fri Nov 8, 2013.

COEUR d'ALENE - Now that the election is wrapped up, the city clerk and city attorneys are combing through a series of complaints that range from simple campaign filing errors to potential criminal activity.

"We've had some complaints that may be in violation of Idaho code, which could be criminal," said Mike Gridley, city attorney. "We have also had some that may be in violation of reporting requirements, which may only require compliance."

Gridley said City Clerk Renata McLeod will look at the complaints and try to help those who are out of compliance meet reporting requirements, and then forward those that she cannot to his office.

Gridley will then review those cases and forward them to a prosecutor if there is a need to do so.

"We will use another prosecutor (outside Coeur d'Alene) to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest," he added.

For instance, Gridley said that Tom Wold, director of the Ocean of Life Foundation, which attempted to make an anonymous donation to Mary Souza's campaign, made some statements about other campaign contributions that may have been hidden.

The city has yet to hear from him, but they are pursuing that incident as a potential campaign violation. How it is dealt with could be a simple matter of filling out a campaign disclosure form, or it could be forwarded to a prosecutor or detective, he explained.

"Our goal is not to ruin anyone's life," Gridley said. "We just need to get some compliance."

McLeod said she is still working to determine if the Truth North Idaho PAC had any expenditures prior to Oct. 20, which was the end of the last campaign reporting period.

She said she has been in contact and traded information with TNI spokesman Jeremy Morris, but that matter has yet to be resolved.

In that case, she said, resolution could be as simple as providing information that proves the PAC made no expenditures in the last reporting period, or filling out the proper campaign disclosure forms.

Gridley said they also received a complaint about an "Unfit For Mayor" website that included information about Mary Souza and her campaign, but the site was only up on the Internet for less than an hour.

"I am looking into a loose end there," he said, adding that he is working with the Idaho secretary of state's office to determine what legal issues, if any, exist in that case.

He said it comes down to determining what constitutes a de minimis violation, which is a situation that is too trivial for consideration.

Another complaint about a quarter-page newspaper advertisement, paid for by Idaho State Rep. Kathy Sims, is also being looked into, Gridley said.

Because it ran on Sept. 30, Sims may need to file the proper disclosure forms, but Gridley said if she was billed and didn't pay for it until after the Oct. 20 deadline, she won't have to file the paperwork until Nov. 12.

The city has also looked into a private mailing that was done by former Lt. Gov. Jack Riggs, but learned it was paid for by the Steve Widmyer campaign, so it is not an independent expenditure, and will be included on his next disclosure form.

McLeod said former State Sen. Mary Lou Reed and her husband, Scott, also did a mailing, but they are out of town, so she is waiting to discuss the issue with them. However, she has heard that the expenditure may be filed as an in-kind donation in the next reporting cycle.

Four state political action committees, who do not normally get involved in local elections, had to be contacted to file their disclosures locally as well, McLeod said.

"In almost every case people say, 'Oh, I didn't realize that I had to fill that out,'" McLeod said. "Then they are down here within an hour or two with the right information."

Aside from a slew of alleged campaign sign violations, which happen every election, McLeod said those are pretty much all of the complaints they are looking at.

She said the city is likely to wait on any potentially actionable cases until after the final finance disclosure reports are filed on Dec. 5.

Gridley said at the end of the day, it all comes down to whether people were trying to hide their contributions or not.

"In most cases they weren't disguising who they were," he said. "We are trying to protect the people's right to know where the money is coming from."

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said he has also received a complaint about a blog post that may have been considered voter intimidation. He said he is looking into it, but could not comment further until the investigation is complete.

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