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City gives Tovo campaign funds under Fair Campaign Ordinance contract

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 by Austin Monitor

City Clerk Shirley Gentry on Tuesday turned over $64,157 to the Kathie Tovo campaign for use in the June 18 runoff against Place 3 incumbent Randi Shade. Tovo signed the contract upon entering the race in March but since none of the other candidates in the race had signed the contract, Tovo was not obligated to abide by many of its provisions.


Tovo received 46.55 percent of the vote in the May 14 election compared to Shade’s 33 percent. Both campaigns are now working hard to make sure that their original supporters—and maybe a few more—turn out for the runoff.


“It’s going to be a tough campaign and I anticipate that we’re going to be outspent,” said Mark Yznaga, Tovo’s campaign manager. “Kathie qualified for the program. Of course we’re pleased, but we have the rest of the campaign” to focus on. “


Shade said she was disappointed in the inadequacy of city laws related to the campaign finance contract. However, she said she no longer wants to focus on the contract. “We’ve had a very good week,” she said, adding that she was “feeling a tremendous amount of support from people all over the community.” She said she wants to concentrate on issues that differentiate her from Tovo, including her support for Water Treatment Plant 4.


Shade claimed in a letter to Gentry on Monday that Tovo had violated the terms of the contract and requested that Gentry withhold the funds. That request came after the city’s Ethics Review Commission determined that it did not have jurisdiction over a similar complaint Shade filed with them in an attempt to have her opponent declared ineligible for the money. (See In Fact Daily, May 23, 2011.)


Shade’s complaint rested on the value of an email list the Tovo campaign used to send out an endorsement letter from Tom Cooke, former president of the Save Town Lake organization. While the Tovo campaign claims that the 8,000-name list was used only once and is worth $75, Shade said the list would be valued at more than the legal individual contribution limit of $350. 


That issue was never decided. The Fair Campaign Ordinance directs the city clerk to examine the 30-day and 8-day contribution and expenditure reports to determine whether the candidate has violated the contract but gives no other instructions on reasons for not granting the candidate the money.


In letters to both Shade and Tovo, Gentry wrote than the city was reserving all its rights and remedies under the contract with Tovo. She told In Fact Daily on Monday that she would take her cues on legal requirements from the City Attorney.


Gentry’s decision came only hours after Shade and her fellow Council members unanimously approved a resolution canvassing the results of the May 14 general election. That resolution made the victories of Council members Chris Riley and Laura Morrison official and requires that Tovo and Shade enter a runoff.


The final Place 3 tally showed Tovo with 14,849 votes and Shade with 10,534. Max Nofziger and Kris Bailey finished far behind, earning 4,565 and 2,070 votes respectively.

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