City taxpayers will give each candidate for mayor $661,309 to run their campaign, but there’s a catch: you have just over 60 days to convince 3,779 voters to give you $5 each in order to qualify.
With just 10 days to go, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales has only collected about 2/3 of the required donations and now Mayor Keller’s campaign says Gonzales broke the rules to obtain at least one of those.
According to an ethics complaint filed today by the Keller campaign, Gonzales gave a voter a contribution receipt for funds he didn’t donate and that, if true, is against the law and could disqualify him from public financing if he can qualify in time.
VIDEO: Sheriff Says Mayor May Be Behind Drone Sex Toy Attack
Here’s what happened according to a signed statement submitted by Dean Zantow, a voter from the Northeast Heights:
Gonzales and his campaign staffers were invited to a meeting of the Salvation Army where Zantow volunteers on the local advisory board. After a brief presentation, board members were asked to sign a petition supporting Gonzales and then, according to Zantow, Gonzales himself asked Zantow to complete the $5 public financing donation form.
Gonzales’ campaign ultimately submitted the contribution form from Zantow along with a corresponding $5 contribution, but Zantow says he never gave Gonzales any money.
According to Zantow, after signing the form he asked Gonzales personally, “Am I supposed to give you $5 now?” Gonzales replied, “No, that’s OK, we’ll cover that.”
Zantow signed the form and went about his business. Five days later, the Gonzales campaign submitted the form to the city clerk along with a matching $5 contribution.
Zantow says he did not know anything was wrong until a Keller volunteer approached him for a $5 contribution several days later and told him he had to give the $5 personally.
The ethics complaint identifies several potential violations of law and the city’s ethics code, including a state statute making it a crime to contribute funds in the name of another.
Although the complaint only accusing Gonzales of lying about Zantow’s contribution, it mentions that Gonzales collected contributions from other people at the meeting which suggests that ethics investigators could review other contributions from the same event.
“Sheriff Manny Gonzales shamelessly broke the law and committed fraud—and we’re concerned this might be widespread as he’s struggling to qualify for public financing,” says Neri Holguin, campaign manager for Mayor Tim Keller’s re-election campaign. “If his staff and volunteers see their own candidate—and a law enforcement official— break the law and cheat, are they following his lead? We are grateful that a brave voter has come forward to say what he experienced. Sheriff Manny Gonzales’ actions should immediately disqualify him from receiving public funding.”
If the city clerk determines there is sufficient evidence to move forward, he can refer the matter to the city’s ethics board for an investigation and hearing.