Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Election Board will review Biggs new campaign finance amendment

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, turned in a second amended campaign finance report to the County Election Board for 2012 moments before its meeting Friday as well as a letter refuting accusations made by an anonymous source in an April 11 notice to the board.

The board still does not know the identity of Biggs’ accuser but has agreed to consider reviewing the alleged violations and determine if it should proceed with a hearing, Board president and Republican member Patrick Lyp said.

Biggs, who ran for North County Commissioner last year, submitted an amended report to the election board on March 22 after a first anonymous letter saying his reports were missing receipts, weren’t filed in timely manner and didn’t include a statement of organization.

The first amended report from Biggs included information about a Portage fundraiser and an in-kind donation of $7,150 from Golden Technologies for the development of a campaign website. He also wrote a letter of apology to the board saying that any omissions were unintentional and that he takes responsibility for the mistakes.

A second unsigned letter alleged the March 22 amendment failed to indicate which committee member received the donations and failed to report expenses related to Facebook ads. It also stated that the $7,150 in-kind donation from Golden Technologies exceeds the $2,000 limit placed on corporations for candidate donations.

Biggs’ latest response dated May 15 says that he had filed a statement of organization and presented the CFA-1 document to Voters Registration Republican Director Sundae Schoon during the 2012 candidate filing period. The original paperwork is missing from the office for reasons Biggs said he does not know. He rewrote the form and included it in the new amendments.

Biggs said he as the candidate received the donations on behalf of his committee and has attached his name in the latest amendment.

He refuted the claim about the Facebook ads saying he had not purchased ads but he had cut and pasted the front page of his campaign website onto his Facebook page and message board.

As for the donation from Golden Technologies, Biggs new revisions show the amount at $2,000. He said that he or his treasurer “had no managed control” over what value Golden Technologies would place as an in-kind donation and since his first amendment the company had sent him a “corrected invoice” of $2,000 and presented it to the voters registration office.

In the May 15 response, Biggs said that other than a local official’s campaign committee, he did not solicit or receive money from political action committees.

Biggs in the letter said that a recent sampling of campaign finance reports indicated that approximately 75 percent contained inaccuracies and asked “if correct, how and why is this happening?”

Lyp discussed with his other board members Democratic member J.J. Stankiewicz and County Clerk Karen Martin whether it should be their responsibility to “audit” candidate reports. He said the voters office has talked about making the reports available online and remarked “tongue-in-cheek” that the political parties “seem to do a good job with auditing the others.”

With the two other members seemingly in agreement, Lyp said, “I don’ think it’s the best use of the election board’s time getting deep into an audit of these reports.” It is the board’s role to hear complaints and decide if a violation has been made, he said.

As for the latest on Biggs, the board members said they would like to have some time to review the letter and make any unresolved issues know to their attorney Clay Patton.

Patton said in looking over the amended report, he already saw some things he would question such as pages missing from the document. He said that the amendment is for the pre-primary period and it would be better if Biggs would re-file his complete yearly report for 2012 to the board.

Lyp directed the voters registration office to contact Biggs and ask him to submit a complete report by Friday, May 24.

The board members will take 30 days to make their review and meet in early July to make any determinations.

Stankiewicz said he appreciates the fact that Biggs ended up taking the time to respond to the complaint addressing some of the board’s concerns. “I think it shows respect for the process,” he said.

Vote Center discussion rekindled

Also on Friday, the board discussed having centralized voting in the county.

The board and other County officials have shown interest in establishing vote centers in various prominent locations throughout the county where any registered voter in the county could vote without having to go to their respective precinct.

“Location is the key to this whole process,” said Martin.

She and Lyp both mentioned a few more pros saying that the voting centers could improve efficiency while Stankiewicz mentioned what he saw as cons. He said that it would only add more confusion and inconvenience for senior citizens who have limited options for transportation. The move might cut voter turnout since seniors make up the largest voting demographic, Stankiewicz said.

Lyp said that the point of the discussion was not for the board to decide whether Porter County should have early voting but rather they should ask the County Commissioners and the County Council if they would be interested in doing research for more information about how voting centers could work.

Lyp said he would talk to a few officials informally to see if there is any enthusiasm.

“As a concept, I think it’s worthwhile for pursing,” Lyp said.

Although not backing down from his opposition, Stankiewicz said he will “keep an open mind” and suggested the public should also be able to weigh in.

Voters Registration Democrat Director Kathy Kozuszek said that it is likely the Commissioners or the Council will prefer that the election board do the research.

Kozuszek also added that while voting centers have been well-received in other Indiana counties that have them, they do not show an increase in voter turnout.

In other business, the board voted in the affirmative to certify the vote from the May 7 Union Twp and Hebron school referendums. The official count stayed the same as the numbers reported on Election Night.

 

 

Posted 5/21/2013