The Coronado Times followed up with Bill Sandke on his response to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) investigation into his campaign finances. As we reported last week, an anonymous complaint was filed with the FPPC and an investigation was opened on November 9. The complaint alleges illegal reimbursements to the candidate of expenses paid by the campaign, and underreporting of campaign contributions and expenses.
Sandke quickly reported on his Facebook page that he was “100% certain not one of the errors are intentional and 200% committed to following any procedures or filings recommended by the FPCC to resolve this honestly, completely and quickly.” In that vein, Sandke quickly had follow-up conversations with the FPPC earlier in the week and yesterday and appears to be resolving the issues.
In our meeting, he said that he had clearly made errors, none of which were intentional and that he was intent on rectifying them. “The public deserves accurate and transparent information,” he said. The largest of the discrepancies resulted from an $850 county filing fee which should have been paid for out of the campaign directly, but which Sandke himself paid initially and later was reimbursed for. According to Sandke, because of clerical/accounting errors, it appeared as though he was being reimbursed for a fee already paid by his campaign.
According to Sandke’s understanding from the conversation with the FPPC official, the errors were considered to be small, technical errors. And, he was hoping that the situation could be resolved quickly. He said that they were his errors and “I need to fix them.” He was to have another conversation with the FPPC on Monday, November, 20.
Sandke’s most recent Facebook update on the investigation repeats his understanding that the FPPC found “small, technical” violations. Sandke enumerates several, including omitting “2014” from his campaign name, writing “dentist” instead of “dental office,” and failing to shade a circle to specify type of donation. He did not mention the larger, $850 error, discussed above.
As we reported earlier, the FPPC only investigates complaints if they are deemed to have merit. Jay Wierenga, the Communications Director at the FPPC, confirmed that “Cases conclude in a variety of ways … Some cases are settled with a Warning Letter … there are cases that are settled with a no violation letter or an Advisory Letter [which is a case where there may be some evidence of a violation, but not enough to prove a case before a judge or in court].” In the case of a violation and, along with a Warning Letter, a fine(s) may be assessed.
For the future, Sandke says that if he runs again, he will definitely employ a professional to do his finances. Or, another possible tool to help all candidates is Netfile. According to Sandke, City Manager Blair King is looking into the possibility of using Netfile’s paperless finance disclosure software, which can help candidates create more transparent and accurate disclosure forms. Sandke says that this will be a topic of discussion at an upcoming December City Council Meeting.