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Thu, Dec. 05

Anti-Wal-Mart committee faces $10,000 fine

PRESCOTT VALLEY - Town Attorney Ivan Legler is pursuing a $10,000 fine against an anti-Wal-Mart campaign committee for allegedly failing to report that it had spent that amount or more to defeat Proposition 400.

Legler sent a two-page order Wednesday to Chairman Rick Hernandez and Treasurer Mike Vespoli of the Protect Prescott Valley committee, giving them 20 days to request a hearing to challenge the fine.

In so doing, he rejected a proposal from Andrew Gordon, a Phoenix-based attorney representing the committee, to settle the dispute by paying the town what the committee has remaining in its coffers: $167.36.

Gordon made that offer on Friday while disagreeing that the committee had violated a state law that requires campaign committees to notify town clerks within 24 hours of spending $10,000 or more.

Gordon said Wednesday afternoon that he wanted to discuss the matter with his clients before making a comment, adding, "It won't take 20 days."

Paul Ulan, president of Primary Consultants, a Phoenix-based political consultancy that employs Vespoli and ran Protect Prescott Valley's campaign, said that he needed to review the order and discuss it with Gordon.

The order drew praise from Jeri Ann Kooiman, a real estate broker who chaired the opposing committee, Friends of Prescott Valley - Yes on 400.

"I really have to commend the town of Prescott Valley that they are going to continue to pursue their matter," she said, "And it is totally in the hands of Prescott Valley at this point."

Kooiman filed the complaint with Russell about Protect Prescott Valley April 30, the same day that her committee negotiated a $22,500 settlement with town officials over similar violations. Legler had threatened Friends with a $30,000 fine after investigating complaints that Vespoli filed with Russell.

Kooiman had raised questions over whether Protect Prescott Valley fully reported its spending for a phone survey, campaign signs and leaflets.

Friends raised considerably more money than Protect Prescott Valley, and prevailed during the mail-only election March 13 with voters favoring Proposition 400 - and Wal-Mart - by a margin of about 66 to 34 percent.

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