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Wed, Nov. 13

Wal-Mart committee faces possible $30,000 fine

PRESCOTT VALLEY ­ The committee that won voter support for a Wal-Mart here this past March faces a possible $30,000 fine for allegedly missing the 24-hour deadline for reporting the spending of $10,000 or more.

Prescott Valley Town Attorney Ivan Legler on Monday notified Friends of Prescott Valley, Yes on 400 that Town Clerk Diane Russell "has reasonable cause to believe" that the committee did not report the spending to Russell Feb. 20.

In his two-page order Legler gave committee Chairwoman Jeri Ann Kooiman and treasurer Scott Helfinstine 20 days to request a hearing on the matter in Legler's office.

If the committee does not respond, it will face a second order and civil penalty of $30,000, Legler wrote in the order. The committee would have 30 days to respond to that second order, and may appeal any decision to Yavapai County Superior Court.

Kooiman said in a voicemail that she and Helfinstine were reviewing the order and the letters between Legler and Donald Peters of Miller LaSota & Peters, a Phoenix law firm that the committee hired to respond to Legler's handling of the alleged violations.

Helfinstine referred the matter to Chase Barrett of the Scottsdale political consulting firm Kyle Moyer & Co. The Courier could not reach Kyle Moyer for comment. Moyer ran the campaign in favor of Proposition 400 for the committee.

Legler's order and letter followed the investigation of several complaints that a consulting firm representing Local 99 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union had filed with the town. The union sponsored

Protect Prescott Valley, qualified Proposition 400 for the ballot with the intent of overturning a decision of the Town Council of this past July 27 to rezone 19.5 acres at Glassford Hill Road and Lakeshore Drive to accommodate a Wal-Mart supercenter.

Voters, however, sustained the council action by a 65 percent majority.

Legler's letter and order bears the same date ­ Monday ­ as a four-page letter that Peters had faxed along with accompanying campaign finance statements.

"I'm going through a formal process," Legler said, adding, "We have never gone this far" with any complaint about violations of campaign finance laws. It's one of the statutes that typically does not go to negotiations."

Legler said he consulted the state Attorney General's office and had "long discussions" with Paul Ulan, owner of Primary Consultants, the Phoenix political consulting firm that represented Protect Prescott Valley during the campaign.

Ulan said, "Our big issue is they (Friends of Prescott Valley) should have fully disclosed all the information and that they knew that this was not a question of $1,000 here and there. This really goes back to who paid for the campaign," referring to Wal-Mart.

Referring to a campaign finance report that Friends of Prescott Valley filed for the period covering Jan. 1 through Feb. 21, Ulan asked, "How can you incur $33,000 in debt and not show it as an expense?"

Friends properly reported campaign spending, Peters stated in his letter to Legler.

However, Peters also stated that Landslide Strategic Media did not quote any price for designing newspaper advertising when Barrett of Kyle Moyer & Co. contacted the business in late January or early February.

"The campaign-finance laws do not and cannot require that a committee report an expenditure before it has any way of knowing what amount to report," Peters wrote.

He added that the committee erred by not reporting within 24 hours that it received invoices Feb. 19 and 20 from Adobe Printing exceeding $27,800. The committee reported the spending in the pre-primary report March 7.

"In short, this was a good-faith mistake that caused no prejudice," he wrote. "The Yes on 400 Committee sincerely regrets the error. Errors of this sort do not, however, warrant the imposition of any penalty."

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