Political Ad Causes Confusion Within Fire District

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The political season is heating up in the Rim country, as evidenced by an advertisement that appeared on page 11A in the Aug. 6 Roundup. That ad has generated much confusion among residents of the Christopher/Kohl's Fire District. The ad suggests that voters in the fire district recall the present board and vote in two candidates, Don Weesner and Brian Crandall. One of the candidates, however, won't be on the ballot.

When challenged in court July 29, Crandall was found to be ineligible to run by Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill because he does not reside in the district.

The ad was placed by Gregory Bownds several days later, on behalf of the Christopher/Kohl's Volunteer Firefighters Association, still listing Crandall as a candidate.

The Roundup failed to confirm whether the association was registered as a political action group with Gila County, and did not list the parties that paid for the ad.

The Roundup has learned that the association is not registered, and that Bownds is not authorized to officially represent Christopher/Kohl's firefighters or the department in any way.

"To the best of my knowledge, and that of the firefighters I've talked to, there is no organization called the Christopher-Kohl's Volunteer Firefighters Association," CKFD Fire Chief Ray Larsen said.

Bownds said the group does exist, but is not officially a political action group.

"We are an association of volunteers, both active and inactive," he said. "We're a concerned group of people who are currently on the department and many who have resigned."

According to Dixie Mundy, Gila County elections director, any group that places an ad with the intent to influence voters must be registered as a political action committee with designated officers and a statement of organization.

"We didn't know about that and we will take care of it," Bownds said.

Political print ads in Arizona must clearly state who placed and paid for the ad, which must be identified as a "paid advertisement." Information about registered political action groups are kept by the Gila County elections department.

The Roundup strives to adhere to all required political advertising guidelines set by the state and county.

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