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Shade files second complaint against Tovo, seeks to block campaign funds

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 by Austin Monitor

Council Member Randi Shade has tried another avenue to prevent her opponent, Kathie Tovo, from receiving $64,000 under the terms of Tovo’s contract with the City of Austin. Shade alleged in a letter to City Clerk Shirley Gentry on Monday that Tovo had violated that contract and urged Gentry to withhold the money under the Fair Campaign Ordinance.

 

“…I am requesting that you, on behalf of the city, investigate the breach and withhold distribution of the city’s Fair Campaign Ordinance funds,” Shade wrote in a letter to Gentry.

 

Shade and Tovo will face one another in a runoff on June 18. Shade received 33 percent of the vote and Tovo received 46 percent in the May 14 election.

 

Shade filed a complaint with the city’s Ethics Review Commission the day before that election, but the commission ruled on Friday that it did not have jurisdiction over the complaint.

 

In an unrelated matter, on May 12 the Texas Ethics Commission assessed a $200 against Shade for irregularities related to campaign finance reports from her 2008 City Council race.

 

Tovo said in a press statement on Monday, “After the Ethics Review Commission dismissed the complaint, I had hoped that Friday would mark the end of Randi Shade’s efforts to use various complaint processes to further her own campaign.”

 

Tovo signed the contract, which refers to a city ordinance that has virtually no civil enforcement provisions. Shade has pointed out on several occasions that Tovo would only be getting the city money because a “loophole” in the law allows a candidate who signs the contract to ignore the aggregate spending limits and limits on self-lending if any other candidate in the race does not sign the contract.

 

Since none of the other Place 3 candidates, including Shade, signed the contract, Tovo is due to receive $64,157 as soon as the vote is canvassed today.

 

Shade’s basic complaint—like one she alleged before the Ethics Review Commission—is that the person who endorsed Tovo in an email to members of the Save Town Lake organization gave her an in-kind contribution of more than $350. The Tovo campaign values the list at $75 and said it would be declared as such on its next report.

 

Shade argues that use of an email list with approximately 8,000 email addresses on it is “without question” in excess of the maximum contribution allowed under the city charter.

 

However, it may turn out that the contract does not require Tovo to abide by the $350 limit. The ordinance does direct the city clerk to examine the 30-day and 8-day contribution and expenditure reports to determine whether the candidate has violated the contract.

 

Aside from Shade’s complaint, the city clerk’s office would be prepared to issue a check to Tovo today after the City Council canvasses the vote from the May 14 election. Gentry said Monday she was waiting to get advice from the City Attorney’s Office on whether to disburse the funds to Tovo on Tuesday.

 

The Texas Ethics Commission ruling was part of a series of complaints filed last year by a group of Houston area tea party members against a number of members, including Shade, Lee Leffingwell, Chris Riley, Laura Morrison, and Sheryl Cole. In addition to Shade, the commission has issued fines to Morrison ($200), Riley ($500), and Cole ($500) in recent weeks.

 

Contacted Monday, Shade issued a brief statement on the ruling: The “TEC complaints were filed against every member of the Austin City Council last summer by Houston Tea Party activists as retribution for the Councils stand against Arizonas immigration law. The complaints were based on technicalities, like listing donors by their commonly-known first initials rather than their full first names. The Tea Party complaints are not analogous in any way to the complaint I filed today with the City Clerk.”

 

Each of the Council members cited by the commission has the option of accepting the fine or seeking a hearing to appeal the ruling.

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