The Marshall County Election Board heard the concerns of Nicole Haskins on some Campaign Finance Reports she requested from the Clerk’s Office. She opened her comments by saying, “I come here before the committee because I think that our elections should be held with high integrity and with high regard to being accurate. I believe the candidates who decide to run, their first step of being transparent to the community is through their financial reports.” Haskins said she has recently read over a lot of the Indiana Code and found that filing a fraudulent report is a level 6 felony or if they fail to file a complete and accurate report it can be a Class B misdemeanor.
She reviewed reports for elected officials that had won their election in 2020 and the candidates running in the 2022 primary. Haskins said she found a lot of discrepancies from varying degrees in most of the candidate filings.
In February of 2020, the Political Action Committee, Marshall County for Better Government was formed and in April they changed the PAC name to Better Government Hears People (BGHP). This involved Jesse Bohannon, Bill Githens, Timothy Harmon, and William Paterson. Haskins said, “It appears that the PAC was formed as a catch-all for funds because they were going to join their four campaigns into one.” She noted that their expenses were all in-kind but Bohannon, Githens, and Harmon each claimed 100% of the in-kind contributions to their individual campaigns, and each claimed 100% of the expenses to their individual campaigns.
Looking at William Patterson’s report, Haskins said his Pre-Primary Report was not accurate at all noting he only had two summary sheets with expenses showing over $11,000 and $200. In his annual report, Paterson seemed to catch up on his expenses to match the other three in the PAC but it didn’t match up to his donations.
Nicole Haskins said it appears that the four candidates each put every dollar contributed to BGHP on their individual reports. For example, A donation of $100 was listed on each of the four finance reports totaling $400 when it was only a $100 contribution and should have been listed as $25 on each finance report.
Haskins said, “When you review the reports for the four candidates and Jim Masterson’s amendment and the PAC Better Government Hears People, it appeared that one person filled these all out. They are all photocopies of each other. Every mistake that was made on one was made on them all.”
Reviewing the 2022 Pre-Primary Finance Reports showed both Steve Harper and Mandy Campbell lacked proper coding for their expenditures. Not coded properly is a defective report according to the election manual.
William Patterson’s 2022 Pre-Primary report showed cash on hand of $2,392.81 but he had disbanded his 2020 committee with a zero balance. His new report did not detail where the funds on hand came from.
On Nicole Cox’s finance report, Haskins questioned her expenses which included purchasing gas outside the county and purchasing a ticket to the Lincoln Day Dinner. She said no other candidate had listed those expenses.
On the commissioner’s race, Haskins said Trend Weldy didn’t separate his contribution between individuals and corporates, and he is also missing coding for his expenditures.
Stanley Klotz appears to have closed his commissioner campaign at the end of 2018. The clerk’s report shows he opened a new committee on 12/13/21. He failed to disclose which office he was seeking, and which banking institution is holding his campaign funds. On his annual 2021 report, Klotz reported receiving a $10,000 contribution from Matt Miller but anytime a candidate receives a check made out to the campaign it must be deposited into the campaign account and not into a personal account. Haskins said according to the election manual comingling of funds with your personal banking accounts is not allowed.
Klotz’s Pre-Primary Report lists direct contributions from himself between January 1 and April 8th of $5,033.39 but these direct contributions are not itemized. The election manual requires candidates to use the double-entry method of entering the contribution as in-kind and then showing the in-kind expense.
Nicole Haskins also questioned the contributions from Hensley Fabricating, Inc. By state law for local elections a corporation can only contribute a maximum of $2,000 for the year. Nicole Cox and Deborah Johnson each listed a contribution from Hensley Fabricating of $1,000 on their financial reports. The Political Action Committee BGHP reported receiving a check from Hensley Fabricating in the amount of $2,000. If Hensley donates to a PAC they must earmark how much of their contribution should go to which candidates. Haskins said, “Since Hensley has already reached their contribution limit with the first two donations, the donation to the PAC must have been earmarked for the type of campaign they are donating to because it can’t be to any other local races this year.”
Haskins, reading from the Campaign Finance Manual said, “Failure to earmark the funds, if the commission determines that a corporation or labor organization has failed to designate a contribution violation of 3-9-2-4-C, the commission shall access a civil penalty equal to the greater of the following plus any of the investigative costs: 2 times the amount of the contribution that is undesignated or $1,000.
Election Board President Sean Surrisi said in his 9 years on the board he hasn’t ever seen this number of complaints.
The Marshall County Election Board was not able to make any decisions because hearings will have to be conducted if they find the complaints to be legitimate. If the Election Board reviews a report and feels it is defective, they will ask the candidate to correct the report. That would not require a hearing unless the report is not corrected by the set date, then they would conduct a hearing on the issue. They will work with the Indiana Election Division to receive additional information on some of these complaints.
The Marshall County Election Board will meet again on Monday, May 2nd at 1 P.M. in the Clerk’s Office.