The Marshall County Election Board conducted a hearing Tuesday morning December 6th on the complaint filed by Nicole Haskins dated October 28th with regard to the campaign finance reports submitted by Stan Klotz as Klotz for Commissioner.
The hearing was called by the County Election Board to determine whether the committee had violated three issues: failure to timely report a $3,000 contribution; improper comingling of funds; and false statements.
Members of the County Election Board are President Rick Huff the Democrat representative, Adam Lukenbill the Republican representative, and County Clerk Deb VanDeMark. Mr. Lukenbill presented a proxy for the Klotz hearing because of a conflict so he appointed Lynn Berndt VanDeKeere to serve on his behalf for the Klotz complaint.
This is the second complaint Mrs. Haskins has filed against Mr. Klotz for his campaign finance reports. The first one was filed in April for his pre-primary report.
Each side was given 5 minutes to present their case. Mrs. Haskins said she had just been handed 28 pages presented by Mr. Klotz’s attorney and couldn’t compare the new information to the prior campaign finance report that quickly. She did say that she thought Stan only needed to do an amended finance report to rectify his numbers and make them accurate.
When asked about her concern about the $3,000 contribution from the Political Action Committee (PAC) Better Government Hears People (BGHP), she said, “Had that not been recognized, he would have been in the negative for basically the latter half of this campaign.” She was unsure if everything in her complaint was addressed in Attorney Surrisi’s paperwork.
Local attorney Sean Surrisi attended the hearing to represent Mr. Klotz and said, “There were a couple of clerical errors in the report and also in the pre-primary report after going through them all.” He said after finding the errors and amending the two reports the finance has been rectified.
The question of the $3,000 contribution from the PAC was not reported in Stan Klotz’s campaign finance report that was submitted on October 17th. It was noted that three months have passed since the BGHE PAC disbursement was made and the PAC was disbanded. It was commented that State Statute says each person who accepts a contribution for a committee shall, on demand of the treasurer of the committee, and in any case within thirty days after receipt of the contribution, transfer to the treasurer the actual contribution if it is money or a detailed account if it is other than money.
Mr. Surrisi explained that the PAC mailed the $3,000 check on July 12, 2022, and Mr. Klotz set it aside because he was unsure if he was going to accept the contribution. On October 17th he deposited the check after filing his large contribution report with the Clerk’s Office.
Surrisi also presented a copy of the Klotz for Commissioner bank account information with an account number and the deposit slip showing the $3,000 deposit.
The election board president told Surrisi there was no real evidence only your argument and Surrisi said, “The response that I provided is a verified response that was signed by Mr. Klotz under penalties of perjury.”
Election Board member Deb VanDeMark asked when the Klotz for Commissioners bank account was opened, and Mr. Surrisi said sometime after he filed the amended CFA-1 for the primary.
Mr. Surrisi confirmed that a $10,000 contribution from Matt Miller late in 2021 was deposited into Mr. Klotz’s personal bank account and expended from that account and never moved into his campaign finance bank account at Lake City Bank. He did pay a fine for the comingling violation.
Mr. Huff said this is the second time they’ve had to deal with complaints about Mr. Klotz’s campaign finance reports and if he can’t complete them correctly maybe he should find someone to assist him.
Surrisi called the issues, “very minor clerical errors” and said numerous other candidates have had similar minor violations and clerical errors. He said they are doing their best to comply.
VanDeMark questioned if he was holding the $3,000 check because he didn’t have a political campaign bank account.
Surrisi said the amended CFA-1 was filed on May 2nd and listed the Lake City Bank Account dates 2-18-22 for his campaign finance funds. In May he testified he didn’t have a bank account. She has an issue with the comingling of funds and if he understood the importance of having a separate campaign finance account.
Proxy Lynn Berndt questioned if the previous violation was remedied. It appears that Mr. Surrisi’s response indicates that Mr. Klotz’s response at the May hearing wasn’t accurate.
Rick Huff stated in the hearing, “I don’t know that we’re going to be able to get evidence to pin this down conclusively one way or the other. In my own thought, it’s the second time we are here on Mr. Klotz. We slap other people on the hand for a little bit of sloppiness just to keep things going. I don’t think it’s something we can just let slide.”
Attorney Surrisi said the sloppiness of Mr. Klotz’s reports the board is not in a position to make any recommendations or penalties citing Indiana Code 3-9-4-14 saying defective reports are to be corrected and resubmitted within 5 days of notice.
Election Board member VanDeMark reminded Surrisi of the three reasons for the hearing: failure to timely report the $3,000 contribution, improper commingling of campaign finance funds, and false statements. She questions the CFA-1 that said he had a bank account in February but in the May hearing he said he didn’t have an account. She asked if that was a false statement. She asked again when the bank account was opened.
Election Board President suggested continuing the hearing to acquire the bank account records by providing bank statements for the Klotz for Commissioner account. They are to be delivered to the election board within 5 days and should be from the date the account was opened until the November election.
The Marshall County Election Board will continue the hearing on Thursday, December 15th at 8:30 a.m. in the Clerk’s Office.