Payson Mayor-elect Kenny Evans did not violate election laws by lumping together all the contributions from people who gave less than $25, Town Clerk Silvia Smith has concluded in response to a question from a voter.
Pat Randall had asked the Payson town attorney's office for a ruling on whether Evans had violated election law when he reported nearly $6,000 worth of contributions from about 500 supporters who each gave less than $25, usually after attending one of more than 60 community meetings he held in the course of the campaign.
Evans had reported the total of the small contributions and described the events at which the contributions were made on his legally required campaign disclosure statements.
Randall had raised the question in the letter, on a blog attached to the Roundup's Web site and in letters to the Rim Country Gazette, which has run several stories about the allegations.
Town Attorney Sam Streichman initially referred the complaint to a Valley law firm, citing a potential conflict of interest in having the town attorney rule on a campaign issue. However, the outside legal firm said the town clerk should make the determination, based on town and state ordinances.
Smith reviewed the election handbook prepared by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns and state elections law, then sent Randall a letter detailing her findings.
Smith concluded: "I do not find reasonable cause to believe there is a violation based on the Campaign Finance Reports Handbook of Instructions."
Smith noted that the handbook specifically allows the "aggregation" of contributions smaller than $25 and the handbook adds that, "if you are reporting a large lump sum of small contributions from a fund-raiser, it's a good idea to put in a brief description of the event in case you are asked to explain later."
Smith said Evans had "provided that explanation and he offered me detailed documentation at the time of filing his report. I told him it was not required to attach it to his report."
Evans said he had about 100 pages of documents he had offered to submit with his report, including the names of everyone who had attended his community meetings and made a donation.
Smith said the town has no plans to pursue the complaint any further and will not seek a separate opinion from the contract law firm.
Evans said he had followed the handbook and the instructions of town staff. "Each step of the way I'd gone in and asked the legal staff and they said this is what you need to do."
He said that Randall had "made the statement that she was going to make my life miserable several months ago -- and that seems to be her intent. I actually don't know the lady."