A supporter of Casey Thomas filed an ethics complaint Monday against Dave Neumann, who's being challenged by Thomas for his District 3 city council seat, claiming he violated the Dallas City Code. Brian Wesley alleges Neumann accepted $27,925 in contributions that exceed the allowable $1,000 donation per individual in each election cycle.
We called Neumann's office Monday for comment and were referred to his consultant, Laura Reed Martin. She told us Tuesday that his camp was unaware of the complaint and stressed that it's "standard" for candidates to be able to raise money in current election cycles and apply them to past cycles when a debt is carried.
"If you have a debt from your runoff, you can still raise money toward that debt," she said. "It still counts toward that previous cycle."
City Secretary Deborah Watkins noted that the city code doesn't define an election cycle or provide specifics regarding Martin's explanation.
"The code does not address whether it can be applied to the runoff if the account had outstanding loans," she wrote in an e-mail Wednesday. "I can only provide you an interpretation of issues relating to campaign contributions from the Dallas City Code as it is written."
Wesley received a response from Watkins yesterday afternoon, which advised him that a copy of his sworn complaint has been forwarded to Randy Skinner, chair of the Ethics Advisory Commission. Skinner will form the preliminary panel hearing the complaint, along with commissioners James Adams and Rodolfo Rodriguez. The panel has 21 days from the day of the filing to make a preliminary finding regarding the complaint.
"If the preliminary finding is that the complaint does not state a claim under this chapter or does not have just cause, based upon the statements and evidence submitted, the complaint must be dismissed. A determination that a complaint be dismissed can only be made upon the affirmative vote of at least two of the three preliminary panel members."
This isn't the first time Neumann has found himself in trouble regarding his finances.
After The Dallas Morning News busted him in February for overspending his office budget by $8,000, he initially declined to pay the funds back. Instead, he asked council members Linda Koop and Mitchell Rasansky to dip into their budgets to cover his overage, but both were unwilling.
Neumann later changed his mind and told The News he would pay back the city because he wanted to "do the right thing" and be "a stand-up guy."
Eleven days later, Neumann was nailed again by the paper, this time for accepting contributions exceeding the monetary limit. He claimed his office audited his campaign finance reports and discovered four contributions of $1,000 that violated city code.
SEC. 15A-2. CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION LIMITATION.
(a) An individual shall not make a contribution of more than:
(1) $1,000 per city election in support of, or opposition to, a single candidate for election to Place Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, or 14 on the city council; or
(2) $5,000 per city election in support of, or opposition to, a single candidate for election to Place Number 15 on the city council.
Neumann filed an amendment to a prior report, changing three of the contributions to the wives of the original donors, and he said the fourth would be refunded.
So when campaign finance reports were filed Thursday, we expected to see a refund to the city and the donor on Neumann's report. He gave the city back its $8,011.63, but the refund of a contribution by Robert Todd was noticeably absent. All this strange activity prompted us to do our own review of his campaign finance reports, just in case Neumann or The News missed anything.
It looks like Neumann collected an additional $17,405 worth of contributions from donors who gave him more than a grand each in at least one of his three election cycles, which we defined as the donations he accepted until the end of his initial run for council (January 8, 2007, to May 12, 2007), the contributions received during his runoff election (May 13, 2007, to June 16, 2007) and the ones during his current campaign (June 17, 2007, to present). We also found that two of the three changes Neumann made to move around contributions still didn't fix the problem.
The three contributions changed by Neumann were from Brady Wood, Randall Goss and Ray Roberts. A $1,000 donation from Wood on March 14, 2008, was changed from his name to his wife Megan. However, Megan already made a $1,000 contribution on the same date. A $1,000 donation from Roberts on June 2, 2008, was also changed to his wife Linda. Yet the date did not correspond with the violation by Roberts, which occurred during Neumann's initial run for office (March 30, 2007, and April 11, 2007).
Those two contributions, along with Neumann's refusal to refund the donation by Todd brings his total potential overage to $20,405, according to our calculations.
Below you will find Wesley's complaint, along with the letter he received from Watkins and the one sent to Neumann. Dave Neumann Ethics ComplaintBrian Wesley letters