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Tue, Oct. 22

Town attorney notifies pro-Wal-Mart committee of possible violations

PRESCOTT VALLEY -­ Complaints about alleged violations of state election laws remain unresolved today, one day after Prescott Valley residents voted to let Wal-Mart proceed with plans to build a supercenter.

Friends of Prescott Valley, Yes on 400 has 14 days from this past Monday to respond to a two-page letter from Town Attorney Ivan Legler in which Legler alleges that the committee may have violated campaign reporting requirements. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville, Ark., raised more than $100,000 to sway voters, according to reports the town has on file.

"They have an opportunity to respond and give their explanation, and once that is evaluated a decision will be made whether to impose a fine," Legler told The Daily Courier Tuesday. "I will consult the AG's (state Attorney General's) office to get all the advice I can get."

Legler added that the Friends committee can appeal any fine he imposes.

State law requires campaign organizations that raise or spend $10,000 or more to notify the local jurisdiction within 24 hours, excluding weekends and holidays, or face fines as high as three times the amount exceeding $10,000.

Legler notified Scott Helfinstine, a certified public accountant and treasurer of the Friends committee, via mail and fax Monday.

Helfinstine's staff referred calls to Chase Barrett, an associate with Kyle Moyer & Co., a Scottsdale-based political consultant representing the committee.

"I have not had a chance to look at it," Barrett said as he exited Russell's office Tuesday afternoon.

However, Paul Ulan, owner of Primary Consultants, a Phoenix-based firm that worked with Local 99 of the United Food and Commercial Workers to try to defeat Proposition 400, commented, "Kyle is an experienced consultant. He knows" the law.

Ulan associate Mike Vespoli sent two letters to Russell alleging that the Friends committee violated campaign disclosure requirements. Vespoli is treasurer of Protect Prescott Valley, the union-backed campaign committee.

Legler wrote to Vespoli that the Friends committee may have violated the 24-hour notification requirement in a finance report that arrived at Russell's office five days past the March 1 deadline. The report indicated that Friends listed no receipts and a debt of $33,313 for the reporting period of Jan. 1 through Feb. 21.

"Thus, it appears the Town Clerk should have received notice of the incurring of these debts on or before Feb. 22," he wrote to Helfinstine.

Helfinstine's committee notified Russell by certified mail, postmarked on Monday, that Wal-Mart contributed $100,000 to the campaign this past Friday.

Ulan said, "We know Wal-Mart was paying for the campaign. We want full disclosure, and everything that the ('yes') campaign paid for."

Ulan's committee reported raising a total of $9,600 as of the Jan. 1-Feb. 21 reporting period. Protect Prescott Valley qualified Proposition 400 for the ballot with the intent of overturning a Town Council decision this past July 27 to rezone 19.5 acres at Glassford Hill Road and Lakeshore Drive to accommodate Wal-Mart.

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