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This story is a staff report from The Paper.

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An investigation into accusations of fraud by Sheriff Manny Gonzales’ campaign for mayor found credible evidence that at least 11 campaign representatives, including Gonzales himself, submitted receipts for public financing contributions they did not collect and that almost 10 percent of sampled donations were fraudulent or failed to follow the law. 

The City’s Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices asked the inspector general—an independent investigative agency of the city with law enforcement authority—to investigate after voters came forward saying that Gonzales and his staff had submitted qualifying petitions and $5 contributions to qualify the sheriff for more than $660,000 in taxpayer funds for his campaign against Mayor Tim Keller. 

According to the inspector general’s report obtained Monday by The Paper., investigators from the IG’s office sampled approximately 250 (about 15 percent) of the 2,025 paper qualifying contribution receipts submitted by the Gonzales campaign. 

Of the sample of contributions reviewed, investigators found: 

  • 23 instances (or about 10 percent of those sampled) where voters said they never signed a petition or gave a qualifying contribution to Gonzales’ campaign.
  • 11 different campaign representatives, including Gonzales himself, were associated with false submissions.
  • “​Mr. Gonzales had the highest number of instances where individuals indicated that they signed the QC receipt but did not pay the $5.” Gonzales personally signed receipts associated with about 20 percent of the questioned contributions. 
  • Two women, Michelle Martinez and Megan McMillan, designated by Gonzales in writing to represent his campaign for public financing submissions were associated with the most forged signatures and contributions.

McMillian is widely known as a Republican campaign operative. Michelle Martinez has been widely identified in media reports and city investigations as Gonzales’ executive assistant in the office of the sheriff. The IG report did not identify either woman further.

Investigators also requested to interview Gonzales’ campaign staff, but they refused unless required by subpoena. The sheriff already admitted that members of his campaign forged signatures and submitted some false receipts, but Gonzales denied that the fraud was rampant or attributable to him.

As previously reported by The Paper., the most questioned signatures came during one week when the campaign submitted roughly three times its normal number of contributions. 

The report also noted that Gonzales signed a city form stating, “I am fully responsible for the statements made and materials submitted by these representatives on behalf of my campaign.” 

239 of the roughly 250 sampled contributions were selected by a random number generator. The inspector general says that their sample provides a 5 percent margin of error and 90 percent confidence. Extrapolated to the entire sample of contributions submitted by Gonzales, those samples would indicate that Gonzales and his team submitted as many as 200 fraudulent contributions. 

Read the full report below.

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